Microbial Source Tracking: Methods, Applications, and Case Studies

pp 399-431


Agricultural and Rural Watersheds

  • Andreas H. FarnleitnerAffiliated withInstitute of Chemical Engineering, Research Area Applied Biochemistry and Gene Technology, Research Group Environmental Microbiology and Molecular Ecology, Vienna University of TechnologyInterUniversitary Cooperation Centre for Water and Health (ICC Water & Health), Vienna University of Technology Email author 
  • , Georg H. Reischer
  • , Hermann Stadler
  • , Denny Kollanur
  • , Regina Sommer
  • , Wolfgang Zerobin
  • , Günter Blöschl
  • , Karina M. Barrella
  • , Joy A. Truesdale
    • , Elizabeth A. Casarez
    • , George D. Di Giovanni

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Identifying all relevant human and animal fecal sources is a basic requirement for target-oriented water resource management in agricultural and rural watersheds (ARW). As outlined, microbial source tracking (MST) is most suitably applied in concert with other methods within a broader conceptual framework of fecal pollution analysis. Two case studies – covering surface and karstic ground­water resources within ARW – are presented with the following features in common: public importance, problem formulation based on catchment-based pollution source profiling or modeling, and integrated use of several methods and parameters for fecal source characterization and identification at the water resource level. Possibilities and limitations of currently available MST tools, as well as fundamental requirements for their successful application and combination with other ­methods, are discussed. The use of multiple tools helps overcome specific limitations of individual methods, increases the robustness of the study, improves confidence in the results, or can help identify issues for further investigation.


Water quality Fecal pollution Microbial source tracking Human vs. animal pollution ground and surface water Library dependent and independent methods