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Forms of lower-Life/Organisms in drinking water, part I

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BACTERIA

Bacteria are another important class of prokaryotes in the Monera kingdom. Bacteria cells range in size from less than 1 to 10 microns in length and from 0.2 to 1 micron in width. Despite their small size, it has been estimated that the total weight of all bacteria in the world exceeds that of all other organisms combined. Bacteria, along with fungi, are an important component of the ecosystem because they decompose. If these decomposers did not exist, nutrients would become locked up in the dead bodies of plants and animals, and the supply of elements required by living systems would soon be exhausted. Among the higher organisms in this group are the iron, manganese, and sulfur bacteria. These higher bacteria gain their energy from the oxidation of simple inorganic substances. (Review Lesson 5 for more details.) Lower forms of bacteria can be grouped as those that are helpful and those that are harmful to man. Those harmful to man are mainly the disease-producing organisms. Helpful organisms hasten the process of decomposing organic waste matter. And by feeding on waste materials, they aid in the purifying of water.

All bacteria are sensitive to the temperature and pH of a water. Some bacteria can tolerate acid water. But for the most part, they thrive best in waters that have a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, that is, essentially neutral waters. As to temperature, most pathogenic or disease bacteria thrive best in water of body temperature. Beyond this, no hard and fast statements can be made.

Some bacteria are more resistant to heat than are others. Some are more sensitive to cold. At low temperatures, for example, some bacteria may become dormant for long periods of time, but will still continue to exist. Interestingly enough, the waste products of their own growth can hamper bacteria and may even prove toxic to them.

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