Water microbiology FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
The question library on water related issues
What is microbiology?
Microbiology is the scientific field that is occupied with the study of microscopic organisms, commonly known as microrganisms.
What are microrganisms?
All living creatures consist of cells. Cells are very small basic units of life. They are the smallest structures capable of basic life processes, such as taking in nutrients and expelling waste. Cells can only be made visible by microscopes.
What kinds of microrganisms are there?
Microrganisms are divided up by their cell characteristics, in the same way as plants and animals. There are two kinds of (micr)organisms. The first kind is the eukaryotic organism (protista). Most organisms are eukaryotic, which basically means that the cells they consist of contain nucleuses and other internal parts, surrounded by membranes. The second kind of microrganisms is the prokaryotic organism (monera). Prokaryotic cells are surrounded by a membrane, but they contain no nucleus or other internal parts (organelles), contrary to eukaryotic cells.
The protists are single-celled eukaryotic microrganisms, as mentioned earlier. Examples are amoebas, diatoms, algae and protozoa. These can be a danger to human and animal health, as certain protists can cause diseases, such as malaria and sleeping sickness. There are a wide variety of protists, and they inhabit many different environments; fresh water, seawater, soils, and the intestinal tracts of animals, where they perform crucial digestive processes.
Which microrganisms in water cause diseases?
Sometimes microrganisms that cause health effects can be found in drinking water. However, as drinking water is thoroughly disinfected today, disease caused by microrganisms is rarely caused by drinking water.
Protozoa can accumulate in certain body parts, after they have penetrated a human body. The accumulations are called cysts.
How do we eliminate harmful microrganisms from water?
To eliminate harmful microrganisms from water we tend to use disinfectants. Examples of disinfectants are chlorine, UV, ozone (O3) and chlorine dioxide (ClO2). There are several different advantages and disadvantages to the various disinfection techniques, as shown on our disinfection page. Chemicals that are harmful to certain types of microrganisms are often used to eliminate them. These chemicals are known as biocides, because they are mortal to microrganisms.
How can microrganisms be made useful during water treatment?
Microrganisms can be used to decompose contaminants in wastewater. This kind of water treatment is called biological water treatment. During biological water treatment microrganisms break down organic matter, nitrates and phosphates. This is a brief explanation of how these biological water treatment processes work.
Sources: Encarta Encyclopedia, Water purification FAQ
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