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Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Volume 57, 2019, Pages 197-204

Applying biotechnology for drinking water biofiltration: advancing science and practice

Mary Jo Kirisits1,4, Monica B.Emelko2,4, Ameet J.Pinto3,4

The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, 301 East Dean Keeton Street, Austin, TX 78712, United States.


Drinking water biofiltration processes have evolved over time, moving from unintentional to deliberate, with careful filter media selection, nutrient and trace metal supplementation, oxidant amendment, and bioaugmentation of key microorganisms, to achieve improvements in water quality. Biofiltration is on the precipice of a revolution that aims to customize the microbial community for targeted functional outcomes. These outcomes might be to enhance or introduce target functional activity for contaminant removal, to avoid hydraulic challenges, or to shape beneficially the downstream microbial community. Moving from the foundational molecular techniques that are commonly applied to biofiltration processes, such as amplicon sequencing and quantitative, real-time polymerase chain reaction, the biofiltration revolution will be facilitated by modern biotechnological tools, including metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics. The application of such tools will provide a rich knowledge base of microbial community structure/function data under various water quality and operational conditions, where this information will be utilized to select biofilter conditions that promote the enrichment and maintenance of microorganisms with the desired functions.

Graphical abstract


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