A geographical approach to tracking Escherichia coli and other water quality constituents in a Texas coastal plains watershed. Academic Article uri icon


  • Diffuse sources of surface water pathogens and nutrients can be difficult to isolate in larger river basins. This study used a geographical or nested approach to isolate diffuse sources of Escherichia coli and other water quality constituents in a 145.7-km(2) river basin in south central Texas, USA. Average numbers of E. coli ranged from 49 to 64,000 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 mL depending upon season and stream flow over the 1-year sampling period. Nitrate-N concentrations ranged from 48 to 14,041 g L(-1) and orthophosphate-P from 27 to 2,721 g L(-1). High concentrations of nitrate-N, dissolved organic nitrogen, and orthophosphate-P were observed downstream of waste water treatment plants but E. coli values were higher in a watershed draining an older part of the city. Total urban land use explained between 56 and 72 % of the variance in mean annual E. coli values (p < 0.05) in nine hydrologically disconnected creeks. Of the types of urban land use, commercial land use explained most of the variance in E. coli values in the fall and winter. Surface water sodium, alkalinity, and potassium concentrations in surface water were best described by the proportion of commercial land use in the watershed. Based on our nested approach in examining surface water, city officials are able to direct funding to specific areas of the basin in order to mitigate high surface water E. coli numbers and nutrient concentrations.

published proceedings

  • Environ Monit Assess

author list (cited authors)

  • Harclerode, C. L., Gentry, T. J., & Aitkenhead-Peterson, J. A.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Harclerode, CL||Gentry, TJ||Aitkenhead-Peterson, JA

publication date

  • January 2013