Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015AR368B

Continuation of analysis for host-specific viruses in water samples collected from select 303(d) listed streams in the Illinois River Watershed

Institute: Arkansas
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $5,618 Total Non-Federal Funds: $12,253

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 Non-Point Source Pollution Management Plan. In Northwest Arkansas, several streams within the Illinois River Watershed (IRW) have been placed on the 303(d) list for impaired water bodies. In 2012, there were 13 streams—including 5 reaches of the Illinois River—on the 303(d) list for the IRW, and of these, 8 (62%) were due to elevated Escherichia coli levels. Moreover, the source of fecal contamination is listed as unknown for all but one stream. Current standard methods for the evaluation of microbial water quality involve the use of generic bacterial indicators such as enterococci, fecal coliforms, and E. coli. However, these indicator bacteria do not provide enough information to determine the source of the fecal contamination or the actual risk to public health. 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. In 2013, the AWRC 104b Program funded our study titled “Fecal Source Characterization in Select 303(d) listed Streams in the Illinois River Watershed with Elevated Levels of Escherichia coli”. The objectives of the proposed study were to: 1) collect and process water samples from 303(d) listed streams within the IRW and 2) determine likely dominant sources of fecal contamination over multiple seasons including “off-seasons” (e.g., when recreational activity is minimal). Male-specific, ssRNA coliphage viruses (FRNA) and host-specific enteric viruses were the primary microbial targets for determination of likely fecal contamination. All of the sample collection, processing, and analysis was performed by four undergraduate students at the University of Arkansas in various degree programs including Animal Sciences, Crop, Soil, and Environment Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Biological and Agricultural Engineering. The current proposal is for a student research project to fund one undergraduate student to complete the molecular analysis of the remaining samples (n = 416) and travel to the International Symposium on Waterborne Pathogens in Savannah, GA in order to present the research.