Evaluating monitoring strategies to detect precipitation-induced microbial contamination events in karstic springs used for drinking water
Besmer, Michael D.
Sigrist, Jürg A.
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Monitoring of microbial drinking water quality is a key component for ensuring safety and understanding risk, but conventional monitoring strategies are typically based on low sampling frequencies (e.g., quarterly or monthly). This is of concern because many drinking water sources, such as karstic springs are often subject to changes in bacterial concentrations on much shorter time scales (e.g., hours to days), for example after precipitation events. Microbial contamination events are crucial from a risk assessment perspective and should therefore be targeted by monitoring strategies to establish both the frequency of their occurrence and the magnitude of bacterial peak concentrations. In this study we used monitoring data from two specific karstic springs. We assessed the performance of conventional monitoring based on historical records and tested a number of alternative strategies based on a high-resolution data set of bacterial concentrations in spring water collected with online flow cytometry (FCM). We quantified the effect of increasing sampling frequency and found that for the specific case studied, at least bi-weekly sampling would be needed to detect precipitation events with a probability of >90%. We then proposed an optimized monitoring strategy with three targeted samples per event, triggered by precipitation measurements. This approach is more effective and efficient than simply increasing overall sampling frequency. It would enable the water utility to (1) analyze any relevant event and (2) limit median underestimation of peak concentrations to approximately 10%. We conclude with a generalized perspective on sampling optimization and argue that the assessment of short-term dynamics causing microbial peak loads initially requires increased sampling/analysis efforts, but can be optimized subsequently to account for limited resources. This offers water utilities and public health authorities systematic ways to evaluate and optimize their current monitoring strategies. Show more
Journal / seriesFrontiers in Microbiology
Pages / Article No.
PublisherFontiers Research Foundation
Subjectwater quality monitoring; sampling; microbial dynamics; drinking water; spring water; early warning systems; risk assessment
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