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Water Res. 2002 Oct;36(17):4273-82.

Identification of the sources of fecal coliforms in an urban watershed using antibiotic resistance analysis.

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Department of Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa 33620, USA.


Bacteria such as fecal coliforms are used as indicators of fecal pollution in natural waters. These bacteria are found in the feces of most wild and domestic animals and thus provide no information as to the source of fecal contamination, yet identification of indicator bacteria sources allows improved risk assessment, remediation, and total daily maximum load (TDML) assessment of environmental waters. This bacterial source tracking study was initiated in order to identify the dominant source(s) of fecal contamination in the urban watershed of Stevenson Creek in Clearwater, Florida. Five sites that represent areas where routine monitoring has previously shown high levels of fecal coliforms were sampled over 7 months. Fecal coliforms were enumerated by membrane filtration, and antibiotic resistance analysis was used to "fingerprint" a subset of randomly selected isolates and statistically match them to fingerprints of fecal coliforms from known sources (the library). A field test of the classification accuracy of the library was carried out by isolating fecal coliforms from the soil and waters surrounding a failing onsite wastewater treatment and disposal system (OSTDS). The vast majority of the isolates were classified into the human category. The major sources of fecal pollution in Stevenson Creek over the course of the study were wild animal, human, and, to a lesser extent, dog. Overall, wild animal feces were identified as the dominant source when fecal coliform levels were high, but when fecal coliform levels were low, the dominant source was identified as human. The results of this study demonstrate that the sources of fecal indicator bacteria within one urban watershed can vary substantially over temporal and spatial distances.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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