The role of organic matter in structuring microbial communities

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Kaplan, L., M. Hullar, L. Sappelsa, D. Stahl, P. Hatcher, and S. Frazier. 2005. American Water Works Association, Denver, Colorado.

ISBN-10: 1843398974
ISBN-13: 978-1843398974


Natural organic matter is important to the quality of drinking water. It constitutes precursors for disinfectant by-product formation and supports regrowth of bacteria. The drinking water industry is involved in work designed to improve biological treatment of water, control bacterial regrowth in distribution systems, and measure biodegradable NOM concentrations. These efforts would benefit from a knowledge of NOM composition and structure and the composition of microbial communities that colonize biological filters and distribution systems. In this project the researchers addressed four major goals: (1) to determine the structure and composition of natural organic matter (NOM), (2) to describe the structure of heterotrophic bacterial communities supported by raw and treated source water, (3) to measure the responses of heterotrophic bacterial communities to seasonally driven variations in NOM and temperature, and (4) to determine whether bioreactor systems can serve as small-scale models for the development and refinement of drinking water treatment processes. The five source waters selected for this project included a broad range of physiographic provinces, vegetation zones, and NOM concentrations. The research team analyzed NOM and microbial communities from an analytical hierarchy involving assessment of concentration, composition, and structure. Concentrations of NOM and BOM were estimated from dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and biodegradable DOC concentrations. NOM composition was assessed from analyses of carbohydrates with ion chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection, humic substances with XAD-8 resin, and functional groups with NMR. Molecular structure was determined from tetramethylammonium hydroxide thermochemolysis (TMAH) GC/MS. Microbial community composition was assessed from comparative ribosomal ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequencing, specifically, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms (t-RFLP), to provide an overview of microbial population structure and detect population shifts at the level of species.