OCWD Receives Grant to Study Microbes in Reused Water

OCWD’s Research and Development Department was recently awarded a research grant from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) for a successful proposal entitled “Characterization of the Microbiome of a State-of-the-Art Water Reuse System to Enhance Treatment Performance.” In addition to OCWD, the project team will include the Colorado School of Mines and CosmosID, a genomic big data company. The project will be funded along with 20 others in seven western states under the USBR’s Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program to support research related to new water treatment technologies. Additionally, a portion of the funding will be contributed by the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation. The total award received by the CSM-OCWD-CosmosID team is $150,000.

GWRSThe research study seeks to identify and compare the microbial community patterns at various stages of advanced treatment in the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) using the latest, next generation DNA sequencing technologies. Further, the projects will employ advanced DNA sequence identification through the use of CosmosID algorithms.   The patterns will be compared to assess impact of treatment on microbial communities present at trace levels in the water and support a future goal to develop possible relationships between the microbial communities and standard water quality parameters monitored in the GWRS advanced treatment system.

“Microbial community” refers to the diverse variety of microorganisms that may be present together in water, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. The vast majority of these are non-disease causing. Bacteria contribute to biofouling of the filtration membranes used for water treatment, caused by an accumulation of microorganisms on the GWRS membrane system. Through this project, OCWD wants to better understand the communities of microorganisms that may be present in GWRS water and the treatment system. This type of information could be used in future studies to develop more effective control measures for biofouling and improve operational efficiency.

The one year study provides an approach that is comprehensive and rapid in identifying microbial communities and their transformations.  A challenge and focus of the study is to accurately identify the microbial communities with great specificity and sensitivity.  The novel methods used in this study have the potential to provide a greater understanding of the microbial communities and their removal through GWRS treatment.  This can benefit treatment design and lower unnecessary costs related to design and monitoring of GWRS treated water.