Research finds new ways to treat water

DRINKING water contains common bacteria which can encourage other, potentially harmful, bacteria to thrive, researchers at a Yorkshire university have found.

Their findings could pave the way for water to be made safe to drink without using chemicals.

This research, published in the latest issue of Water Science and Technology: Water Supply, has been produced by academics from Sheffield University, who studied four bacteria found in the city’s drinking water to see which combinations were more likely to produce a “biofilm”.

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Biofilms are bacteria which form inside water pipes.

“Biofilms can form on all water pipes and as these are usually non-harmful bacteria, they don’t present a problem,” said lead researcher, Professor Catherine Biggs.

“However, biofilms can also be a place for harmful bacteria such as E-coli or Legionella to hide.

“Our research looks at what conditions enable biofilms to grow, so we can find ways to control the bacteria in our water supply more effectively.”

Prof Biggs added that the way clean water is currently maintained is “a little like using antibiotics without knowing what infection we’re treating.”

The DNA testing being developed, meanwhile, will provide “a fast and more sophisticated alternative”, allowing water companies to adapt their responses to the “exact bacteria they find in the water system.”