Research Topic

Drinking Water Microbiome

About this Research Topic

High-quality and safe drinking water is produced by continuously taking and treating source water through a conventional or advanced drinking water production plant, then transported through drinking water distribution systems (DWDS), and finally enters premise plumbing prior to human consumption at the tap. However, our understanding of microorganisms in drinking water (DW) or DW microbiome is limited, as majority of consumers still think drinking water as sterile and recent studies just start to uncover that microorganisms are ubiquitous during the process of drinking water production and distribution. One can simply ask ‘why are microbes present in DW?’ and ‘where are they from?’.

At present, conventional and advanced water production plants all apply physical and chemical means to remove unwanted chemicals and microorganisms, and often use microbiological processes such as sand filters and granular activated carbon filters to biologically remove excessive nutrients and break down soluble organic matters. Thus, fresh drinking water is usually accompanied with microbial life, typically 1,000-50,000 total microbial cells per mL. It then enters a DWDS with complex infrastructure, where microorganisms can be harbored in suspended or settled particles, or grow as biofilms on pipe surfaces. Once entering the premise plumbing, drinking water quality begins to deteriorate when water is stored for days to months and beyond the time that residual disinfectants and anti-corrosive agents (e.g., phosphates to protect against lead leaching) are effective. This deterioration can further lead to microbial regrowth, potentially reaching over a million per mL, consequently causing undesirable water quality changes and violations of public health regulations. Biofilms can further act as natural harbors for some opportunistic pathogens that affect immune-compromised populations, allow invasive pathogens to attach when intrusion events occur, and remain as a component of waterborne disease risk that is hard to predict. Thus, there is an urgent need to improve and disseminate our understanding of the microorganisms in the production plant, DWDS, and premise plumbing to consistently produce and deliver safe and clean water, and protect the public from increasing risk to pathogen exposure.

Recent advances in DNA sequencing and analytical technology and bioinformatics have allowed the scientists and researchers to effectively use these meta-omics tools (e.g., metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics) to study microbiomes in various microbial ecosystems. However, the use of these advanced tools to study the drinking water microbiome is still at its infant stage.

This Research Topic aims to solicit papers that can expand our understanding on the diversity and function of microbes involved in the production plant and present in DWDS and premise plumbing. The final goal is to obtain a deep understanding of DW microbiomes by meta-omic tools in a systematic and cost-effective way so that the knowledge can be used by water utilities to better manage the water quality, shape the DW microbiome, and ultimately protect public health.


Keywords: Microbiomes, drinking water, metagenomics, microbiology, microbial ecology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

High-quality and safe drinking water is produced by continuously taking and treating source water through a conventional or advanced drinking water production plant, then transported through drinking water distribution systems (DWDS), and finally enters premise plumbing prior to human consumption at the tap. However, our understanding of microorganisms in drinking water (DW) or DW microbiome is limited, as majority of consumers still think drinking water as sterile and recent studies just start to uncover that microorganisms are ubiquitous during the process of drinking water production and distribution. One can simply ask ‘why are microbes present in DW?’ and ‘where are they from?’.

At present, conventional and advanced water production plants all apply physical and chemical means to remove unwanted chemicals and microorganisms, and often use microbiological processes such as sand filters and granular activated carbon filters to biologically remove excessive nutrients and break down soluble organic matters. Thus, fresh drinking water is usually accompanied with microbial life, typically 1,000-50,000 total microbial cells per mL. It then enters a DWDS with complex infrastructure, where microorganisms can be harbored in suspended or settled particles, or grow as biofilms on pipe surfaces. Once entering the premise plumbing, drinking water quality begins to deteriorate when water is stored for days to months and beyond the time that residual disinfectants and anti-corrosive agents (e.g., phosphates to protect against lead leaching) are effective. This deterioration can further lead to microbial regrowth, potentially reaching over a million per mL, consequently causing undesirable water quality changes and violations of public health regulations. Biofilms can further act as natural harbors for some opportunistic pathogens that affect immune-compromised populations, allow invasive pathogens to attach when intrusion events occur, and remain as a component of waterborne disease risk that is hard to predict. Thus, there is an urgent need to improve and disseminate our understanding of the microorganisms in the production plant, DWDS, and premise plumbing to consistently produce and deliver safe and clean water, and protect the public from increasing risk to pathogen exposure.

Recent advances in DNA sequencing and analytical technology and bioinformatics have allowed the scientists and researchers to effectively use these meta-omics tools (e.g., metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics) to study microbiomes in various microbial ecosystems. However, the use of these advanced tools to study the drinking water microbiome is still at its infant stage.

This Research Topic aims to solicit papers that can expand our understanding on the diversity and function of microbes involved in the production plant and present in DWDS and premise plumbing. The final goal is to obtain a deep understanding of DW microbiomes by meta-omic tools in a systematic and cost-effective way so that the knowledge can be used by water utilities to better manage the water quality, shape the DW microbiome, and ultimately protect public health.


Keywords: Microbiomes, drinking water, metagenomics, microbiology, microbial ecology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 January 2018 Abstract
15 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 January 2018 Abstract
15 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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