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Comparing microbial water quality in an intermittent and continuous piped water supply

TitleComparing microbial water quality in an intermittent and continuous piped water supply
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKumpel E, Nelson KL
JournalWater Research
Start Page5176
Date Published09/2013
Keywords24/7 water supply, Continuous water supply, India, Intermittent water supply, Water distribution system, water quality

Supplying piped water intermittently is a common practice throughout the world that increases the risk of microbial contamination through multiple mechanisms. Converting an intermittent supply to a continuous supply has the potential to improve the quality of water delivered to consumers. To understand the effects of this upgrade on water quality, we tested samples from reservoirs, consumer taps, and drinking water provided by households (e.g. from storage containers) from an intermittent and continuous supply in Hubli–Dharwad, India, over one year. Water samples were tested for total coliform, Escherichia coli, turbidity, free chlorine, and combined chlorine. While water quality was similar at service reservoirs supplying the continuous and intermittent sections of the network, indicator bacteria were detected more frequently and at higher concentrations in samples from taps supplied intermittently compared to those supplied continuously (p < 0.01). Detection of E. coli was rare in continuous supply, with 0.7% of tap samples positive compared to 31.7% of intermittent water supply tap samples positive for E. coli. In samples from both continuously and intermittently supplied taps, higher concentrations of total coliform were measured after rainfall events. While source water quality declined slightly during the rainy season, only tap water from intermittent supply had significantly more indicator bacteria throughout the rainy season compared to the dry season. Drinking water samples provided by households in both continuous and intermittent supplies had higher concentrations of indicator bacteria than samples collected directly from taps. Most households with continuous supply continued to store water for drinking, resulting in re-contamination, which may reduce the benefits to water quality of converting to continuous supply.