Impairment of surface waters by fecal coliform bacteria is a water-quality issue of national scope and importance. Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires that each State identify surface waters that do not meet applicable water-quality standards. In Virginia, more than 175 stream segments are on the 1998 Section 303(d) list of impaired waters because of violations of the water-quality standard for fecal coliform bacteria. A total maximum daily load (TMDL) will need to be developed by 2006 for each of these impaired streams and rivers by the Virginia Departments of Environmental Quality and Conservation and Recreation. A TMDL is a quantitative representation of the maximum load of a given water-quality constituent, from all point and nonpoint sources, that a stream can assimilate without violating the designated water-quality standard. Christians Creek, in Augusta County, Virginia, is one of the stream segments listed by the State of Virginia as impaired by fecal coliform bacteria. Watershed modeling and bacterial source tracking were used to develop the technical components of the fecal coliform bacteria TMDL for Christians Creek. The Hydrological Simulation Program?FORTRAN (HSPF) was used to simulate streamflow, fecal coliform concentrations, and source-specific fecal coliform loading in Christians Creek. Ribotyping, a bacterial source tracking technique, was used to identify the dominant sources of fecal coliform bacteria in the Christians Creek watershed. Ribotyping also was used to determine the relative contributions of specific sources to the observed fecal coliform load in Christians Creek. Data from the ribotyping analysis were incorporated into the calibration of the fecal coliform model.
Study results provide information regarding the calibration of the streamflow and fecal coliform bacteria models and also identify the reductions in fecal coliform loads required to meet the TMDL for Christians Creek. The calibrated streamflow model simulated observed streamflow characteristics with respect to total annual runoff, seasonal runoff, average daily streamflow, and hourly stormflow. The calibrated fecal coliform model simulated the patterns and range of observed fecal coliform bacteria concentrations. Observed fecal coliform bacteria concentrations during low-flow periods ranged from 40 to 2,000 colonies per 100 milliliters, and peak concentrations during stormflow periods ranged from 23,000 to 730,000 colonies per 100 milliliters. Additionally, fecal coliform bacteria concentrations were generally higher upstream and lower downstream. Simulated source-specific contributions of fecal coliform bacteria to instream load were matched to the observed contributions from the dominant sources, which were beaver, cats, cattle, deer, dogs, ducks, geese, horses, humans, muskrats, poultry, raccoons, and sheep. According to model results, a 96-percent reduction in the current fecal coliform load delivered from the watershed to Christians Creek would result in compliance with the designated water-quality goals and associated TMDL.