Biofilm and microbial water quality were studied in four middle size full-scale distribution systems (DS) in France serving 5,000–30,000 inhabitants (maximum residence time 23–160 h) through three sampling campaigns over 1 year. Three of these DSs were chosen because of a quite high occurrence of bacterial indicators (i.e. total coliforms), the last DS was considered as a reference. Biofilm was studied on cast iron coupons incubated for more than 1 month in devices continuously fed with water from the DS in conditions imitating those met in DS. The devices were located at different points (4–6) along each DS. The abundance of bacteria in biofilm was estimated by heterotrophic plate counts (HPC) after detachment of the biofilm from the support by sonication. Microbiological water quality was estimated in parallel; analysis of total coliforms, E. coli, enterococci and anaerobic sulphide-reducing bacteria spores (ASRB spores) was carried out in biofilm and water. Over the period of the study, 171 water samples and 57 biofilm samples were collected. Over these 171 waters, 19 (11%) were positive for at least one of the measured indicators while two biofilm samples were positive (3.5%). Significant differences were observed in the levels of contamination between the DSs. High residence time in the DS, low disinfectant residual and high temperature increased the risk of indicator occurrence in the water phase. Due to the low number of biofilm samples positive for bacterial indicators, the data collected in the present study did not allow observation of a direct association between biofilm and water contaminations, even if the occurrence of indicators in water appeared on DSs with the highest density of biofilm (HPC).

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