Short-term microbial release during rain events from on-site sewers and cattle in a surface water source

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The protection of drinking water from pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia requires an understanding of the short-term microbial release from faecal contamination sources in the catchment. Flow-weighted samples were collected during two rainfall events in a stream draining an area with on-site sewers and during two rainfall events in surface runoff from a bovine cattle pasture. Samples were analysed for human (BacH) and ruminant (BacR) Bacteroidales genetic markers through quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and for sorbitol-fermenting bifidobacteria through culturing as a complement to traditional faecal indicator bacteria, somatic coliphages and the parasitic protozoa Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp. analysed by standard methods. Significant positive correlations were observed between BacH, Escherichia coli, intestinal enterococci, sulphite-reducing Clostridia, turbidity, conductivity and UV254 in the stream contaminated by on-site sewers. For the cattle pasture, no correlation was found between any of the genetic markers and the other parameters. Although parasitic protozoa were not detected, the analysis for genetic markers provided baseline data on the short-term faecal contamination due to these potential sources of parasites. Background levels of BacH and BacR makers in soil emphasise the need to including soil reference samples in qPCR-based analyses for Bacteroidales genetic markers.

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