Stanish LF, Hull NM, Robertson CE, Harris JK, Stevens MJ, Spear JR, et al. (2016) Factors Influencing Bacterial Diversity and Community Composition in Municipal Drinking Waters in the Ohio River Basin, USA. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157966. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157966
The composition and metabolic activities of microbes in drinking water distribution systems can affect water quality and distribution system integrity. In order to understand regional variations in drinking water microbiology in the upper Ohio River watershed, the chemical and microbiological constituents of 17 municipal distribution systems were assessed. While sporadic variations were observed, the microbial diversity was generally dominated by fewer than 10 taxa, and was driven by the amount of disinfectant residual in the water. Overall, Mycobacterium spp. (Actinobacteria), MLE1-12 (phylum Cyanobacteria), Methylobacterium spp., and sphingomonads were the dominant taxa. Shifts in community composition from Alphaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria to Firmicutes and Gammaproteobacteria were associated with higher residual chlorine. Alpha- and beta-diversity were higher in systems with higher chlorine loads, which may reflect changes in the ecological processes structuring the communities under different levels of oxidative stress. These results expand the assessment of microbial diversity in municipal distribution systems and demonstrate the value of considering ecological theory to understand the processes controlling microbial makeup. Such understanding may inform the management of municipal drinking water resources.