Author(s): Kistemann T, Classen T, Koch C, Dangendorf F, Fischeder R,
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Abstract Hygienic and microbiological examinations of watercourses are usually not carried out during heavy rainfall and runoff events. After rainfall or snowmelt, there are often massive increases in turbidity in flooding creeks in mountain ranges, which are frequently interpreted as an indication of microbial contamination. The aim of this study was to quantify the microbial loads of watercourses during such runoff events and to compare these loads with loads occurring during regular conditions. In a 14-month monitoring period we investigated the microbial loads of three tributaries of different drinking water reservoirs. A total of 99 water samples were taken under different runoff conditions and analyzed to determine physical, chemical, bacterial, and parasitic parameters. Thirty-two water samples were considered event samples during nine measuring series. The criteria for events, based on duration and intensity of precipitation, water depth gauge measurements, and dynamics, had been fixed before the investigation for each creek individually. Of the physical and chemical parameters examined, only the turbidity, pH, and nitrate values differed clearly from the values obtained for regular samples. Most of the bacteriological parameters investigated (colony, Escherichia coli, coliform, fecal streptococcal, and Clostridium perfringens counts) increased considerably during extreme runoff events. If relevant sources of parasitic contamination occurred in catchment areas, the concentrations of Giardia and Cryptosporidium rose significantly during events. The results show that substantial shares of the total microbial loads in watercourses and in drinking water reservoirs result from rainfall and extreme runoff events. Consequently, regular samples are considered inadequate for representing the microbial contamination of watercourse systems. The procedures for raw water surveillance in the context of multiple-barrier protection and risk assessment ought to include sampling during extreme runoff situations.
This article was published in Appl Environ Microbiol
and referenced in Hydrology: Current Research