Core-satellite populations and seasonality of water meter biofilms in a metropolitan drinking water distribution system

Fangqiong Ling, Chiachi Hwang, Mark W LeChevallier, Gary L Andersen, Wen-Tso Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


© 2015 International Society for Microbial Ecology Drinking water distribution systems (DWDSs) harbor the microorganisms in biofilms and suspended communities, yet the diversity and spatiotemporal distribution have been studied mainly in the suspended communities. This study examined the diversity of biofilms in an urban DWDS, its relationship with suspended communities and its dynamics. The studied DWDS in Urbana, Illinois received conventionally treated and disinfected water sourced from the groundwater. Over a 2-year span, biomass were sampled from household water meters (n=213) and tap water (n=20) to represent biofilm and suspended communities, respectively. A positive correlation between operational taxonomic unit (OTU) abundance and occupancy was observed. Examined under a ‘core-satellite’ model, the biofilm community comprised 31 core populations that encompassed 76.7% of total 16 S rRNA gene pyrosequences. The biofilm communities shared with the suspended community highly abundant and prevalent OTUs, which related to methano-/methylotrophs (i.e., Methylophilaceae and Methylococcaceae) and aerobic heterotrophs (Sphingomonadaceae and Comamonadaceae), yet differed by specific core populations and lower diversity and evenness. Multivariate tests indicated seasonality as the main contributor to community structure variation. This pattern was resilient to annual change and correlated to the cyclic fluctuations of core populations. The findings of a distinctive biofilm community assemblage and methano-/methyltrophic primary production provide critical insights for developing more targeted water quality monitoring programs and treatment strategies for groundwater-sourced drinking water systems.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 7 August 2015; doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.136.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-595
Number of pages14
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 7 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank the staff at Illinois American Water for providing water meter samples, water quality data and construction history. We thank Ce Gao for help with the python code for pairwise distance retrieval, Masaru Nobu for discussion on data visualization and Drs Rachel Whitaker, James O’Dwyer and Vern Snoeyink for meaningful discussions. The study is funded by Water Research Foundation and the Academic Excellence Alliance program from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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