Bacterial indicator organisms (e.g., coliforms, E. coli) and some chemical parameters (e.g., turbidity, ammonia) are basic monitoring tools used to measure both changes in drinking-water quality and the presence of hard-to-detect pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Microscopically detectable free-living organisms, such as some groups of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, rotifers and protozoa, are usable as additional indicators of fecal or environmental contamination of drinking water as well as any changes in the drinking-water quality. Our aim in this paper is to summarize the results of microscopic examination of 913 drinking-water samples from different water sources in Hungary in 2004 and 2005 and to demonstrate how these results can be used to maintain safe and good-tasting drinking-water quality. A total of 277 drinking-water samples failed Hungarian microscopic water quality standards as a result of helminths (58%), protozoa (41%), iron bacteria (16%), sulfur bacteria (13%), fungi (11%), algae (5%) and multiple biological contaminants (34%). Based on these results, pipe washing or water storage tank cleaning was deemed necessary. In addition, a number of disinfection or filtration failures were found. Two detailed case studies show the usefulness of monitoring microscopic parameters to avoid disease outbreaks. To our knowledge this is the first paper discussing drinking-water microscopy based on Hungarian experience and practice, which could be useful and informative for other countries.

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