Faecal indicator organism concentrations and catchment export coefficients in the UK

D. Kay, J. Crowther, C. M. Stapleton, M. D. Wyer, L. Fewtrell, S. Anthony, M. Bradford, A. Edwards, C. A. Francis, M. Hopkins, C. Kay, A. T. McDonald, J. Watkins, J. Wilkinson

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Characterisation of faecal indicator organism (FIO) concentrations and export coefficients for catchments with particular combinations of land use and under specific climatic regimes is critical in developing models to predict daily loads and apportion sources of the microbial parameters used to regulate water quality. Accordingly, this paper presents a synthesis of FIO concentration and export coefficient data for the summer bathing season, with some comparative winter data, for 205 river/stream sampling points widely distributed across mainland UK. In terms of both geometric mean (GM) FIO concentrations and export coefficients (expressed as cfu km−2 h−1), the results reveal (1) statistically significant elevations at high flow compared with base flow, with concentrations typically increasing by more than an order of magnitude and export coefficients by about two orders; (2) significantly higher values in summer than in winter under high-flow conditions; and (3) extremely wide variability between the catchments (e.g. four orders of magnitude range for GM faecal coliform concentrations), which closely reflects land use—with urban areas and improved pastures identified as key FIO sources. Generally, these two most polluting land uses are concentrated in lowland areas where runoff (m3 km−2 h−1) is low compared with upland areas, which in the UK are dominated by rough grazing and forestry. Consequently, contrasts in export coefficients between land use types are less than for FIO concentrations. The GMs reported for most land use categories are based on 13 sites and exhibit quite narrow confidence intervals. They may therefore be applied with some confidence to other catchments in the UK and similar geographical regions elsewhere. Examples are presented to illustrate how the results can be used to estimate daily summer base- and high-flow FIO loads for catchments with different land use types, and to assess the likely effectiveness of certain strategies for reducing FIO pollutant loadings in areas with extensive areas of lowland improved pasture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2649-2661
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
Issue number10-11
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


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