The potential for biofilm growth in water distribution systems

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Biofilms on pipe walls in water distribution systems are composed of bacteria in a polymeric matrix, which can lead to chlorine demand, coliform growth, pipe corrosion and water taste and odour problems. The majority of previous studies have been laboratory or pilot plant based and few results are available for field conditions. In this study, field observations of biofilm were made using biofilm potential monitors. The monitor results were compared with pipe samples taken from the distribution system and with laboratory pipe reactors. An empirical equation quantified the inhibitory effects of free chlorine and decrease of temperature on biofilm growth. With water having total organic carbon concentrations in the range 1.5-3.9mg/1 a free chlorine residual of 0.2 mg/l was needed to reduce biofilm concentration to below 50 pg ATP cm2. Pipe material influenced biofilm activity far less than chlorine with mean biofilm activity being ranked in the order glass (136 pg ATP/cm2) <cement (212 pg ATP/cm2) <MDPE (302 pg ATP/ cm2) <PVC (509 pg ATP/cm2).


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4063-4071
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2001


  • chlorine, distribution systems, biofilm