Data_Sheet_3_Changes in the Drinking Water Microbiome: Effects of Water Treatments Along the Flow of Two Drinking Water Treatment Plants in a Urbanized Area, Milan (Italy).xlsx

While safe and of high quality, drinking water can host an astounding biodiversity of microorganisms, dismantling the belief of its “biological simplicity.” During the very few years, we are witnessing an exponential growth in scientific publications, exploring the ecology hidden in drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) and drinking water distribution system (DWDS). We focused on what happens to the microbial communities from source water (groundwater) throughout the main steps of the potabilization process of a DWTP, located in an urbanized area in Northern Italy. Samples were processed by a stringent water filtration to retain even the smallest environmental bacteria and then analyzed with High-Throughput DNA Sequencing (HTS) techniques. We showed that carbon filters harbored a microbial community seeding and shaping water microbiota downstream, introducing a significant variation on incoming (groundwater) microbial community. Chlorination did not instantly affect the altered microbiota. We were also able to correctly predict (through machine learning analysis) samples belonging to groundwater (overall accuracy was 0.71), but the assignation was not reliable with carbon filter samples, which were incorrectly predicted as chlorination samples. The presence and abundance of specific microorganisms allowed us to hypothesize their role as indicators. In particular, Candidatus Adlerbacteria (Parcubacteria), together with microorganisms belonging to Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria, characterized treated water, but not raw water. An exception, confirming our hypothesis, is given by the samples downstream the filters renewal, which had a composition resembling groundwater. Volatility analysis illustrated how carbon filters represented an ecosystem that is stable over time, probably bearing the environmental conditions that promote the survival and growth of this peculiar microbial community.