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Fecal Coliform and E. coli Concentrations in Effluent-Dominated Streams of the Upper Santa Cruz Watershed
Landscape Ecology Branch, Environmental Sciences Division, National Exposure Research Laboratory, United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development, 944 East Harmon Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 January 2013; in revised form: 26 February 2013 / Accepted: 26 February 2013 / Published: 11 March 2013
Abstract: This study assesses the water quality of the Upper Santa Cruz Watershed in southern Arizona in terms of fecal coliform and Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria concentrations discharged as treated effluent and from nonpoint sources into the Santa Cruz River and surrounding tributaries. The objectives were to (1) assess the water quality in the Upper Santa Cruz Watershed in terms of fecal coliform and E. coli by comparing the available data to the water quality criteria established by Arizona, (2) to provide insights into fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) response to the hydrology of the watershed and (3) to identify if point sources or nonpoint sources are the major contributors of FIB in the stream. Assessment of the available wastewater treatment plant treated effluent data and in-stream sampling data indicate that water quality criteria for E. coli and fecal coliform in recreational waters are exceeded at all locations of the Santa Cruz River. For the wastewater discharge, 13%–15% of sample concentrations exceeded the 800 colony forming units (cfu) per 100 mL sample maximum for fecal coliform and 29% of samples exceeded the full body contact standard of 235 cfu/100 mL established for E. coli; while for the in-stream grab samples, 16%–34% of sample concentrations exceeded the 800 cfu/100 mL sample maximum for fecal coliforms and 34%–75% of samples exceeded the full body contact standard of 235 cfu/100 mL established for E. coli. Elevated fecal coliform and E. coli concentrations were positively correlated with periods of increased streamflow from rainfall. FIB concentrations observed in-stream are significantly greater (p-value < 0.0002) than wastewater treatment plants effluent concentrations; therefore, water quality managers should focus on nonpoint sources to reduce overall fecal indicator loads. Findings indicate that fecal coliform and E. coli concentrations are highly variable, especially along urban streams and generally increase with streamflow and precipitation events. Occurrences of peaks in FIB concentrations during baseflow conditions indicate that further assessment of ecological factors such as interaction with sediment, regrowth, and source tracking are important to watershed management.
Keywords: fecal indicator bacteria; Escherichia coli; fecal coliforms; water reuse; Santa Cruz River; Upper Santa Cruz watershed; effluent-dominated
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Sanders, E.C.; Yuan, Y.; Pitchford, A. Fecal Coliform and E. coli Concentrations in Effluent-Dominated Streams of the Upper Santa Cruz Watershed. Water 2013, 5, 243-261.
Sanders EC, Yuan Y, Pitchford A. Fecal Coliform and E. coli Concentrations in Effluent-Dominated Streams of the Upper Santa Cruz Watershed. Water. 2013; 5(1):243-261.
Sanders, Emily C.; Yuan, Yongping; Pitchford, Ann. 2013. "Fecal Coliform and E. coli Concentrations in Effluent-Dominated Streams of the Upper Santa Cruz Watershed." Water 5, no. 1: 243-261.