State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008TX312B
Title: Microbial Source Tracking in Drinking Water from Rainwater Harvesting
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2008
End Date: 2/28/2009
Congressional District: 21
Focus Categories: Conservation, Non Point Pollution, Water Quality
Keywords: Microbial source tracking, drinking water, rainwater harvesting, Bacteroides, fecal contamination
Principal Investigators: Afshar, Brigit (University of Texas at Austin); Kirisits, Mary Jo
Federal Funds: $ 5,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 10,000
Abstract: With looming water shortages, many regions are looking to rainwater harvesting via rooftops to supplement their freshwater resources. Since rainwater can be contaminated with chemical and microbial agents during the collection and storage processes, consumption of untreated harvested rainwater may pose a health risk to the consumer. The main goal of this research is to better understand non-point sources of pathogenic contamination in harvested rainwater. A host-specific molecular marker approach of microbial source tracking will be applied using Bacteroides primers. Existing primers for ruminants, pigs, and horses will be used, and primers for birds (which are likely to be major fecal contributors to rainwater contamination) will be developed. Samples will be collected from traditional rooftop systems at five different residences in central Texas, each with a different configuration representative of the overlying rooftop vegetation conditions and proximity to urban areas. For comparison, samples will also be collected from green roofs (i.e., those covered in a layer of vegetation and soil) from the Lady Bird Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. With this improved understanding, we might be able to identify the most important sources of microbial contamination and work toward their prevention when possible and implement treatment when prevention is impossible.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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