Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013AR343B

Fecal Source Characterization in Select 303(d) listed Streams in the Illinois River Watershed with Elevated Levels of Escherichia coli

Institute: Arkansas
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2014-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $9,593 Total Non-Federal Funds: $21,056

Principal Investigators: Kristen Gibson

Abstract: Recently, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) has again designated the Illinois River watershed (IRW) as a priority watershed for the 2011-2016 NPS Pollution Management Plan. In Northwest Arkansas (Washington and Benton counties), several streams within the IRW have been placed on the 303(d) list for impaired waterbodies. Currently, there are 13 streams—including 5 reaches of the Illinois River—on the 303(d) list for the IRW, and of these, 8 (62%) are due to elevated E. coli levels. Moreover, the source of fecal contamination is listed as unknown for all but one stream (Clear Creek) for which urban runoff has been identified as the likely source. In order to help prevent these streams from remaining on the 303 (d) list, identification of the primary origins/sources of fecal pollution is needed. By identifying the source, potential mitigation strategies may be better informed and directed. Fortunately, advances in both microbiological and molecular methods can allow for the origin of fecal pollution to be determined with relative certainty when compared to the traditional fecal indicator bacteria that are used for assessment. These capabilities will assist the ANRC in reaching both the short-term and long-term goals of the NPS Pollution Management Plan. Here, we propose a year-long effort to collect, process, and analyze water and sediment samples from a subset of the 303 (d) listed streams—as identified by ADEQ—within the IRW across Northwest Arkansas in both Benton and Washington counties in order to determine the dominate origin(s) of fecal pollution. In this study, male-specific (F+), ssRNA coliphage viruses (FRNA) will be the primary microbial target for determination of likely fecal contamination as FRNA have demonstrated specificity to fecal origin (i.e. human sewage vs. animal waste) based on what genogroup the phage belongs to. Therefore, the ability to accurately identify FRNA at the genogroup level is a useful tool in identification of likely fecal source in 303 (d) listed streams within the IRW. Additional microorganisms will be targeted to distinguish the most likely animal host responsible for the presence of non-human FRNA. At the culmination of the study, these data may be combined with data collected from ongoing monitoring efforts within the IRW. Moreover, this study will move forward the development of methods for determination of likely fecal sources in 303 (d) listed streams in the IRW with potential future application to streams impaired due to E. coli exceedances within other watersheds located in Arkansas.