News Feature | December 30, 2015

Biofilm May Help Purify Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

So-called “good bacteria” in the water pipes may help treatment plants keep water clean on its way to the faucet.

“Our drinking water is to a large extent purified by millions of ‘good bacteria’ found in water pipes and purification plants, Swedish researchers have found. So far, the knowledge about them has been practically non-existent, but this new research is about to change that,” according to Lund University in Sweden.

Researchers at the university “discovered that bacteria and other microbes are found in the form of a thin, sticky coating in drinking water treatment plants and on the inside of water pipes. Known as a 'biofilm,' the coating is inescapable because every surface involved in the process of getting drinking water to your tap is covered in it,” RT recently reported.

That is not a cause for concern, according to the study, published in Microbes and Environments. In fact, it may actually have positive effects.

“There's absolutely no need to worry. In fact, you should be happy — because they suspect a large part of water purification happens inside the pipes, and not only in purification plants,” the news report said.

Catherine Paul, one of the researchers, explained the findings.

"We suspect there are 'good' bacteria that help purify the water and keep it safe — similar to what happens in our bodies. Our intestines are full of bacteria, and most of the time when we are healthy, they help us digest our food and fight illness,” she said.

"A previously completely unknown ecosystem has revealed itself to us. Formerly, you could hardly see any bacteria at all and now, thanks to techniques such as massive DNA sequencing and flow cytometry, we suddenly see 80,000 bacteria per milliliter in drinking water," Paul said.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.