A study to estimate the fate and transport of bacteria in river water from birds nesting under a bridge

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To investigate the effect of input parameters, such as the number of bridge-dwelling birds, decay rate of the bacteria, flow at the river, water temperature, and settling velocity, a parametric study was conducted using a water quality model developed with QUAL2Kw. The reach of the bacterial-impaired section from the direct droppings of bridge-nesting birds at the Guadalupe River near Kerrville, Texas was estimated using the model. The concentration of Escherichia coli bacteria were measured upstream, below the bridge, and downstream of the river for one-and-a-half years. The decay rate of the indicator bacteria in the river water was estimated from the model using measured data, and was found to be 6.5/day. The study suggests that the number of bridge-dwelling birds, the decay rate, and flow at the river have the highest impact on the fate and transport of bacteria. The water temperature moderately affects the fate and transport of bacteria, whereas, the settling velocity of bacteria did not show any significant effect. Once the decay rates are estimated, the reach of the impaired section was predicted from the model using the average flow of the channel. Since the decay rate does not vary significantly in the ambient environment at this location, the length of the impaired section primarily depends on flow.

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