Formation of biofilms in drinking water distribution networks, a case study in two cities in Finland and Latvia

  • Markku J. LehtolaEmail author
  • Tālis Juhna
  • Ilkka T. Miettinen
  • Terttu Vartiainen
  • Pertti J. Martikainen
Original Paper


The formation of biofilms in drinking water distribution networks is a significant technical, aesthetic and hygienic problem. In this study, the effects of assimilable organic carbon, microbially available phosphorus (MAP), residual chlorine, temperature and corrosion products on the formation of biofilms were studied in two full-scale water supply systems in Finland and Latvia. Biofilm collectors consisting of polyvinyl chloride pipes were installed in several waterworks and distribution networks, which were supplied with chemically precipitated surface waters and groundwater from different sources. During a 1-year study, the biofilm density was measured by heterotrophic plate counts on R2A-agar, acridine orange direct counting and ATP-analyses. A moderate level of residual chorine decreased biofilm density, whereas an increase of MAP in water and accumulated cast iron corrosion products significantly increased biofilm density. This work confirms, in a full-scale distribution system in Finland and Latvia, our earlier in vitro finding that biofilm formation is affected by the availability of phosphorus in drinking water.


Drinking water Biofilm Assimilable organic carbon Phosphorus 



This study was supported by the Academy of Finland (project 52459) and the Ulla Tuominen foundation. We acknowledge the staff of Kuopio Water and staff of Baltezers, Zakumuiza and Daugava waterworks of Municipal enterprise Riga Water for assisting in installation and sampling of biofilm collectors.


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markku J. Lehtola
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tālis Juhna
    • 2
  • Ilkka T. Miettinen
    • 1
  • Terttu Vartiainen
    • 3
    • 4
  • Pertti J. Martikainen
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratory of Environmental MicrobiologyNational Public Health InstituteKuopioFinland
  2. 2.Division of Water Supply and Sewerage, Faculty of Civil EngineeringRiga Technical UniversityRigaLatvia
  3. 3.Laboratory of ChemistryNational Public Health InstituteKuopioFinland
  4. 4.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of KuopioKuopioFinland

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