Homogeneous Distribution of Escherichia coli Measured within the Vertical Water Column of Small, Freshwater Streams


Sampling for coliform bacterial indicators such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) provides a universally accepted gauge of the microbiologic quality of fresh surface waters worldwide. Protocols for the capture, preservation, and analysis of indicator bacteria collected from moving waters (e.g., rivers, streams, canals, etc.) parallel those for collecting bacteria from standing waters (e.g., ponds, lakes, and impoundments). Strict depth- and width-integrated rules established for testing moving waters are likely a result of the historical precedence of our knowledge of bacterial stratification in standing waters. Sampling protocols for indicator bacteria in freshwater streams recommend capture and retrieval of samples from the mid-water column directed into the current and within the deepest portion of the channel to prevent collection of either benthic particles or surface films. Chi-square analyses of multiple stratified samples captured on the same date and time reveal that variability in sampling position at specified depths within the main stream column or within randomly chosen locations within the main stream channel has no effect (p ≥ 0.25) upon such indicator bacteria numbers. Additionally, these data are the first to show that concentrations of the common bacterial indicator, E. coli, are homogeneously distributed throughout both lateral area and vertical water column within/near a single sampling location of a moving water body up to 245 cubic feet per second (cfs) discharge. Moreover, one data point (bacterial sample) appears to represent the overall bacterial concentration of a small freshwater stream obtained from any single sampling location within/near the main channel for a given date and time. These findings suggest some latitude in sampling strategies for assessing small freshwater streams for indicator bacteria such as E. coli for workers in both environmental and public health fields.

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Buckalew, D. , Tuono, A. , Simmons, A. , Lankford, T. and Smith, D. (2015) Homogeneous Distribution of Escherichia coli Measured within the Vertical Water Column of Small, Freshwater Streams. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 7, 410-421. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2015.75033.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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