Comparison and continuous estimates of fecal coliform and Escherichia coli bacteria in selected Kansas streams, May 1999 through April 2002

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2003-4056

ORCID iD and



The sanitary quality of water and its use as a public-water supply and for recreational activities, such as swimming, wading, boating, and fishing, can be evaluated on the basis of fecal coliform and Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria densities. This report describes the overall sanitary quality of surface water in selected Kansas streams, the relation between fecal coliform and E. coli, the relation between turbidity and bacteria densities, and how continuous bacteria estimates can be used to evaluate the water-quality conditions in selected Kansas streams. Samples for fecal coliform and E. coli were collected at 28 surface-water sites in Kansas. Of the 318 samples collected, 18 percent exceeded the current Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) secondary contact recreational, single-sample criterion for fecal coliform (2,000 colonies per 100 milliliters of water). Of the 219 samples collected during the recreation months (April 1 through October 31), 21 percent exceeded the current (2003) KDHE single-sample fecal coliform criterion for secondary contact rec-reation (2,000 colonies per 100 milliliters of water) and 36 percent exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recommended single-sample primary contact recreational criterion for E. coli (576 colonies per 100 milliliters of water). Comparisons of fecal coliform and E. coli criteria indicated that more than one-half of the streams sampled could exceed USEPA recommended E. coli criteria more frequently than the current KDHE fecal coliform criteria. In addition, the ratios of E. coli to fecal coliform (EC/FC) were smallest for sites with slightly saline water (specific conductance greater than 1,000 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius), indicating that E. coli may not be a good indicator of sanitary quality for those streams. Enterococci bacteria may provide a more accurate assessment of the potential for swimming-related illnesses in these streams. Ratios of EC/FC and linear regression models were developed for estimating E. coli densities on the basis of measured fecal coliform densities for six individual and six groups of surface-water sites. Regression models developed for the six individual surface-water sites and six groups of sites explain at least 89 percent of the variability in E. coli densities. The EC/FC ratios and regression models are site specific and make it possible to convert historic fecal coliform bacteria data to estimated E. coli densities for the selected sites. The EC/FC ratios can be used to estimate E. coli for any range of historical fecal coliform densities, and in some cases with less error than the regression models. The basin- and statewide regression models explained at least 93 percent of the variance and best represent the sites where a majority of the data used to develop the models were collected (Kansas and Little Arkansas Basins). Comparison of the current (2003) KDHE geometric-mean primary contact criterion for fecal coliform bacteria of 200 col/100 mL to the 2002 USEPA recommended geometric-mean criterion of 126 col/100 mL for E. coli results in an EC/FC ratio of 0.63. The geometric-mean EC/FC ratio for all sites except Rattlesnake Creek (site 21) is 0.77, indicating that considerably more than 63 percent of the fecal coliform is E. coli. This potentially could lead to more exceedances of the recommended E. coli criterion, where the water now meets the current (2003) 200-col/100 mL fecal coliform criterion. In this report, turbidity was found to be a reliable estimator of bacteria densities. Regression models are provided for estimating fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria densities using continuous turbidity measurements. Prediction intervals also are provided to show the uncertainty associated with using the regression models. Eighty percent of all measured sample densities and individual turbidity-based estimates from the regression models were in agreement as exceedi

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Comparison and continuous estimates of fecal coliform and Escherichia coli bacteria in selected Kansas streams, May 1999 through April 2002
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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87 p.