IWA Publishing

Variability of E. coli density and sources in an urban watershed

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The objective of this study was to characterize the variability of Escherichia coli density and sources in an urban watershed, particularly to focus on the influences of weather and land use. E. coli as a microbial indicator was measured at fourteen sites in four wet weather events and four dry weather conditions in the upper Blackstone River watershed. The sources of E. coli were identified by ribotyping. The results showed that wet weather led to sharp increases of E. coli densities. Interestingly, an intense storm of short duration led to a higher E. coli density than a moderate storm of long duration (p<0.01). The ribotyping patterns revealed microbial sources were mainly attributed to humans and wildlife, but varied in different weather conditions and were associated with the patterns of land use. Human sources accounted for 24.43% in wet weather but only 9.09% in dry weather. In addition, human sources were more frequently observed in residential zones (>30% of the total sources), while wildlife sources were dominant in open land and forest zones (54%). The findings provide useful information for developing optimal management strategies aimed at reducing the level of pathogens in urban watersheds.

Keywords: E. coli, land use, microbial source tracking, urban watershed, variability, wet weather

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