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Microbiological quality of drinking water from dispensers in Italy

Giorgio Liguori, Ivan Cavallotti, Antonio Arnese, Ciro Amiranda, Daniela Anastasi and Italo F Angelillo*

Author Affiliations

Department of Public, Clinical and Preventive Medicine, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-19

Published: 26 January 2010



Water coolers are popular in office buildings and commercial stores and the quality of this source of drinking water has the potential to cause waterborne outbreaks, especially in sensitive and immunocompromised subjects. The aim of this study was to determine the quality of water plumbed in coolers from commercial stores in comparison with tap water in Italy.


For each sample, microbial parameters and chemical indicators of contamination were evaluated and information about the date of installation, time since last ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of water coolers was collected.


In all samples the chemical parameters (nitrite, ammonium, free active chlorine residual) did not exceed the reference values of the drinking water regulation; the pH value in 86.8% samples of the carbonated waters was lower than the reference limit. The microbiological results indicated that the bacteria count at 22°C and 37°C was higher than the required values in 71% and 81% for the non-carbonated water and in 86% and 88% for the carbonated one, respectively. Enterococcus spp. and Escherichia coli were not detected in any of the water samples. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was found in only one sample of the tap water and in 28.9% and 23.7% of the non-carbonated and carbonated water samples, respectively. No statistically significant differences in bacterial counts at 22°C and 37°C have been found between the non-carbonated and carbonated water from the sampled coolers in relation with the time since the last filter was substituted. The bacteriological quality of tap water was superior to that of non-carbonated and carbonated water from coolers.


The results emphasize the importance of adopting appropriate routinely monitoring system in order to prevent or to diminish the chances of contamination of this water source.