Total flora is used to estimate the number of viable organisms in a sample. This method does not distinguish pathogenic and non-pathogenic microorganisms.
Total flora is most frequently used to assess the effectiveness of water treatment, including drinking water, and the integrity of water distribution systems and ground water sources.
An estimate of the number of viable microorganisms is useful for surveillance. A significant increase in microorganism number can indicate that there may be a source of contamination. Total flora is also used to evaluate the effectiveness of water treatment and sterilization procedures. Most frequently, duplicate plates of a dilution series are incubated at 22°C and 36°C. Other temperatures are used for specific protocols.
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