Ensuring the biological stability of drinking water is essential for modern drinking water supply. To understand and manage the biological stability, it is critical that the bacterial growth in drinking water can be measured. Nowadays, advance treatment technologies, such as reverse osmosis (RO), are increasingly applied in drinking water purification where the produced water is characterized by low levels of nutrients and cell counts. The challenge is, therefore, how to measure the low bacterial growth potential (BGP) of such ultra-pure water using the available methods which were originally developed for conventionally treated drinking water. In this study, we proposed a protocol to assess BGP of ultra-pure drinking water produced by RO and post-treatment (including remineralization). Natural bacterial consortium from conventional drinking water was added to all water samples during this study to ensure the presence of a wide range of bacterial strains. The method development included developing an ultra-pure blank with high reproducibility to lower the detection limit of the BGP method (50 ± 20 × 103 intact cells/mL) compared with conventional blanks such as bottled spring water, deep groundwater treated by aeration and slow sand filtrate of surface water supply. The ultra-low blank consists of RO permeate after adjusting its pH and essential mineral content under controlled laboratory conditions to ensure carbon limitation. Regarding the test protocol, inoculum concentrations of >10 × 103 intact cells/mL may have a significant contribution to the measured low levels of BGP. Pasteurization of water samples before measuring BGP is necessary to ensure reliable bacterial growth curves. The optimized method was used to assess BGP of ultra-pure drinking water produced by RO membranes and post-treatment (including remineralization), where the BGP has decreased more than 6-fold to a level of 90 ± 20 × 103 intact cells/mL compared with conventionally treated water (630 ± 70 × 103 intact cells/mL).
- Bacterial growth potential (BGP)
- Flow cytometry (FCM)
- Reverse osmosis (RO)
- Ultra-pure blank