Replicating the microbial community and water quality performance of full-scale slow sand filters in laboratory-scale filters

Sarah Jane Haig, Christopher Quince, Robert L. Davies, Caetano C. Dorea, Gavin Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Previous laboratory-scale studies to characterise the functional microbial ecology of slow sand filters have suffered from methodological limitations that could compromise their relevance to full-scale systems. Therefore, to ascertain if laboratory-scale slow sand filters (L-SSFs) can replicate the microbial community and water quality production of industrially operated full-scale slow sand filters (I-SSFs), eight cylindrical L-SSFs were constructed and were used to treat water from the same source as the I-SSFs. Half of the L-SSFs sand beds were composed of sterilized sand (sterile) from the industrial filters and the other half with sand taken directly from the same industrial filter (non-sterile). All filters were operated for 10 weeks, with the microbial community and water quality parameters sampled and analysed weekly. To characterize the microbial community phyla-specific qPCR assays and 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene were used in conjunction with an array of statistical techniques. The results demonstrate that it is possible to mimic both the water quality production and the structure of the microbial community of full-scale filters in the laboratory - at all levels of taxonomic classification except OTU - thus allowing comparison of LSSF experiments with full-scale units. Further, it was found that the sand type composing the filter bed (non-sterile or sterile), the water quality produced, the age of the filters and the depth of sand samples were all significant factors in explaining observed differences in the structure of the microbial consortia. This study is the first to the authors' knowledge that demonstrates that scaled-down slow sand filters can accurately reproduce the water quality and microbial consortia of full-scale slow sand filters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-151
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2014


  • COD
  • DOC
  • Drinking water
  • Evenness
  • I-SSF
  • L-SSF
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Slow sand filter
  • Spatial change
  • SSF
  • SUVA
  • Temporal change
  • TVB

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