Image_6_Assessment of Microbial Community Dynamics in River Bank Filtrate Using High-Throughput Sequencing and Flow Cytometry.jpeg

Surface-groundwater interactions play an important role in microbial community compositions of river bank filtrates. Surface water contaminations deriving from environmental influences are attenuated by biogeochemical processes in the hyporheic zone, which are essential for providing clean and high-quality drinking water in abstraction wells. Characterizing the flow regime of surface water into the groundwater body can provide substantial information on water quality, but complex hydraulic dynamics make predictions difficult. Thus, a bottom up approach using microbial community shifting patterns as an overall outcome of dynamic water characteristics could provide more detailed information on the influences that affect groundwater quality. The combination of high-throughput sequencing data together with flow cytometric measurements of total cell counts reveals absolute abundances among taxa, thus enhancing interpretation of bacterial dynamics. 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing of 55 samples among six wells in a well field in Austria that is influenced by river bank filtrate within a time period of 3 months has revealed both, clear differences as well as strong similarity in microbiome compositions between wells and dates. A significant community shift from April to May occurred in four of six wells, suggesting that surface water flow regimes do affect these wells stronger than others. Triplicate sampling and subsequent sequencing of wells at different dates proved the method to be reproducible. Flow cytometric measurements of total cells indicate microbial shifts due to increased cell counts and emphasize the rise of allochthonous microorganisms. Typical freshwater bacterial lineages (Verrucomicrobia, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Armatimonadetes) were identified as most increasing phyla during community shifts. The changes are most likely a result of increased water abstraction in the wells together with constant river water levels rather than rain events. The results provide important knowledge for future implementations of well utilization in dependency of the nearby Danube River water levels and can help drawing conclusions about the influence of surface water in the groundwater such that hygienically save and clean drinking water with a stable microbial community can be provided.