Role of discontinuous chlorination on microbial production by drinking water biofilms

Francesc Codony, Jordi Morató, Jordi Mas

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78 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial quality in water distribution systems is strongly affected by the development of microbial biofilms. Production and release of microbial cells by the biofilm affect microbial levels in the water column and in some cases this fact constitutes a public health concern. In this study, we attempt to analyze in which way the existence of different episodes of chlorine depletion affects both biofilm formation and microbial load of an artificial laboratory system. The work was carried out using two parallel packed bed reactors both supplied with running tap water. One of the reactors was used as a control and was permanently exposed to the action of chlorine. In the other reactor, chlorine was neutralized at selected times during the experiment and for periods of variable length. During the experiment the concentration of total and viable cells from the effluent was monitored at the exit of each of the reactors. The data obtained were used to estimate microbial production from the biofilms. As an average, release of microbial cells to the water phase increased tenfold in the absence of chlorine. The results also indicate that disinfectant efficiency against the biofilm was not recovered when chlorine returned to normal levels after each event of chlorine neutralization. Cell viability in the water phase in the presence of chlorine was low at the beginning of the experiment but increased 4 orders of magnitude after five neutralization periods. Therefore, subsequent episodes of chlorine depletion may accelerate the development of microbial communities with reduced susceptibility to disinfection in real drinking water systems. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1896-1906
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2005


  • Biofilms
  • Chlorine depletion
  • Disinfection
  • Drinking water systems
  • Microbial dynamics


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