The potential for use of alternative urban water sources is often limited by the uncertainty of pathogen risks associated with it, due in part to the unknown origin of entrained faecal contamination. This project has successfully applied a set of promising analytical methods able to differentiate contamination sources to urban waterway and stormwater samples, trialled these methods for such applications alongside other water quality tests, and suggested how they be used and interpreted in the future.
A relatively small number of sites were examined, with emphasis placed on being able to describe the likely contamination inputs to those sites. This was due to an expectation of substantial variation in contaminant loading and origin in urban stormwaters and waterways. Sampling was undertaken in two stages; an initial screening of sites with replication over time using inexpensive water quality tests, followed by a more intensive examination of the same sites with a wider range of analytical tests. The data generated in this study was summarised and compared with the expectations of total, human-specific and ruminant-specific contamination of each site.
It is expected that this project will stimulate the use of these methods to examine alternative water sources, to better characterise the risks associated with their use, and allow fit-for-purpose use of those supplies. Additionally, recommendations are made as to the further validation of these promising methods, and for investigation of other aspects of the methods relevant for their use by the water industry.