Project Details Ngā taipitopito
A key indicator of swimmable water quality in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers is the minimal presence of E.coli (Escherichia coli). This bacteria naturally occurs in the gastro-intestinal tract of animals and its presence in water generally indicates faecal contamination, which can make humans sick.
However, E. coli can also be present naturally in soil and water, with no risk to human health (non-pathogenic). The presence of this naturalised Escherichia, rather than faecal contamination, may cause some waterways to fail to meet water quality standards. Faecal Source Tracking research identified potential sources of faecal contamination impacting waterways in New Zealand, and investigated the presence of naturalised Escherichia.
The Faecal Source Tracking project used DNA sequencing to identify 23 strains of E.coli that are not associated with risk to human health. This work is a significant contribution to the evidence base that ensures New Zealand’s water quality standards for “swimmability” are appropriately protective of human health and recreational values.