A comparative study of three different assimilable organic carbon (AOC) methods: results of a round-robin test

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Easily assimilable organic carbon (AOC) is frequently used for the assessment of the biological stability of drinking water, which is an important consideration in the control of bacterial growth in distribution networks. The first AOC bioassay was developed in 1982 and is based on growth of two bacterial strains (Pseudomonas fluorescens P17 and Spirillum spp. NOX) in drinking water relative to their growth on acetate. Much research was subsequently conducted to modify, simplify and increase the speed of the assay which resulted in a number of alternative AOC assays. Application of these assays raises legitimate questions about the comparison of AOC data from different studies. In the present study, a round-robin test was performed to evaluate the correlation between three established AOC methods. A total of 14 water samples, covering a wide range of AOC concentrations, were analyzed with the original ‘van der Kooij’ method, the ‘Werner & Hambsch’ method and ‘Eawag’ method. Good correlations were found between AOC concentrations measured with the various methods. The data suggest an acceptable compatibility between different AOC methods, although deviations between the methods call for careful interpretation and reporting of AOC data.

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