Metagenomic characterization of biofilter microbial communities in a full-scale drinking water treatment plant

Seungdae Oh, Frederik Hammes, Wen Tso Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microorganisms inhabiting filtration media of a drinking water treatment plant can be beneficial, because they metabolize biodegradable organic matter from source waters and those formed during disinfection processes, leading to the production of biologically stable drinking water. However, which microbial consortia colonize filters and what metabolic capacity they possess remain to be investigated. To gain insights into these issues, we performed metagenome sequencing and analysis of microbial communities in three different filters of a full-scale drinking water treatment plant (DWTP). Filter communities were sampled from a rapid sand filter (RSF), granular activated carbon filter (GAC), and slow sand filter (SSF), and from the Schmutzdecke (SCM, a biologically active scum layer accumulated on top of SSF), respectively. Analysis of community phylogenetic structure revealed that the filter bacterial communities significantly differed from those in the source water and final effluent communities, respectively. Network analysis identified a filter-specific colonization pattern of bacterial groups. Bradyrhizobiaceae were abundant in GAC, whereas Nitrospira were enriched in the sand-associated filters (RSF, SCM, and SSF). The GAC community was enriched with functions associated with aromatics degradation, many of which were encoded by Rhizobiales (∼30% of the total GAC community). Predicting minimum generation time (MGT) of prokaryotic communities suggested that the GAC community potentially select fast-growers (<15 h of MGT) among the four filter communities, consistent with the highest dissolved organic matter removal rate by GAC. Our findings provide new insights into the community phylogenetic structure, colonization pattern, and metabolic capacity that potentially contributes to organic matter removal achieved in the biofiltration stages of the full-scale DWTP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-285
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Biofiltration
  • Drinking water treatment
  • Metagenomics
  • Microbial community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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