Microbiological Monitoring for the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program

By Donna S. Francy, Donna N. Myers, and Dennis R. Helsel

Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4018

In cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water

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Data to characterize the microbiological quality of the Nationís fresh, marine, and estuarine waters are usually collected for local purposes, most often to judge compliance with standards for protection of public health in swimmable or drinkable waters. Methods and procedures vary with the objectives and practices of the parties collecting data and are continuously being developed or modified. Therefore, it is difficult to provide a nationally consistent picture of the microbial quality of the Nationís waters.

Study objectives and guidelines for a national microbiological monitoring program are outlined in this report, using the framework of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. A national program is designed to provide long-term data on the presence of microbiological pathogens and indicators in ground water and surface water to support effective water policy and management. Three major groups of waterborne pathogens affect the public health acceptability of waters in the United Statesóbacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Microbiological monitoring in NAWQA would be designed to assess the occurrence, distribution, and trends of pathogenic organisms and indicators in surface waters and ground waters; relate the patterns discerned to factors that help explain them; and improve our understanding of the processes that control microbiological water quality.

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