Research – Impact of Pipe Material and Temperature on Drinking Water Microbiome and Prevalence of Legionella, Mycobacterium, and Pseudomonas Species



In drinking water distribution systems (DWDSs), pipe material and water temperature are some of the critical factors affecting the microbial flora of water. Six model DWDSs consisting of three pipe materials (galvanized steel, copper, and PEX) were constructed. The temperature in three systems was maintained at 22 °C and the other 3 at 32 °C to study microbial and elemental contaminants in a 6-week survey using 16S rRNA next-generation sequencing (NGS) and inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). Pipe material and temperature were preferentially linked with the composition of trace elements and the microbiome of the DWDSs, respectively. Proteobacteria was the most dominant phylum across all water samples ranging from 60.9% to 91.1%. Species richness (alpha diversity) ranking was PEX < steel ≤ copper system and elevated temperature resulted in decreased alpha diversity. Legionellaceae were omni-prevalent, while Mycobacteriaceae were more prevalent at 32 °C (100% vs. 58.6%) and Pseudomonadaceae at 22 °C (53.3% vs. 62.9%). Heterogeneity between communities was disproportionately driven by the pipe material and water temperature. The elevated temperature resulted in well-defined microbial clusters (high pseudo-F index) in all systems, with the highest impact in PEX (10.928) followed by copper (9.696) and steel (5.448). Legionellaceae and Mycobacteriaceae are preferentially prevalent in warmer waters. The results suggest that the water temperature has a higher magnitude of impact on the microbiome than the pipe material.

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