Microbial Transport in Groundwater

Anup Ghimire

Microbial contamination of groundwater could induce waterborne diseases such as hepatitis A, viral gastroenteritis, cholera, typhoid fever and giardiasis. Microbes being living organism, their transport in the groundwater is different than abiotic materials. Physical processes such as advection, dispersion, straining, filtration, electrostatic and chemical process are responsible for microbial transport in groundwater.

Microbial transport has been found to be controlled by hydrogeological heterogeneity of subsurface sediment. Various factors such as adhesion processes, filtration effects, physiological state of the cells, porous medium characteristics, water flow rates and intrinsic mobility of the cells determine the microbial transport activities.

Microbial transport is affected by the availability of pore space between soil particles. Size of the microbes should be smaller than micro pores for the filtration to occur. Nutrient availability affects the size of the microbes influencing microbial movement. Properties of cell surface and microbial adhesion influences microbial transport in the soil particles. pH value of the porous medium matrix solution has impacts on microbial transport. Viral adsorption and transport have been found to be
affected by pH.

Ionic strength or the concentration of cations and anions in solution affects microbial transport. Decrease in ionic strength of the solution facilitates increased bacterial transport. Availability of cellular appendages such as pili, flagella, or fimbria and hydrological factors such as soil texture, soil structure, porosity, water content, and water movement affectmicrobial transport.  Pore water velocity and bacterial attachment to grain surface and detachment from grain surface controls the rate and extent of bacterial movement in groundwater.



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