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Bacteria Growth, Persistence, and Source Assessment in Rural Texas Landscapes and Streams

Project Goals and Objectives: Building upon results from TSSWCB Project 07-06 and further focusing on addressing informational needs identified in the “Bacteria TMDL Task Force Report,” this project will focus on two primary tasks: 1) evaluating the predominant water quality parameters affecting instream bacterial fate and 2) evaluating and quantifying contributing E. coli loading to designated LU/LC types. These specific tasks were selected as those that will provide the most valuable information to watershed managers and practitioners who are faced with accurately predicting and planning to manage E. coli loading in Texas Watersheds. This will be supported by education and outreach efforts that deliver project results to personnel at local, regional, state and national levels.

Instream water quality parameters affecting E. coli growth and persistence will be quantified utilizing simulated stream environments. Flow chambers will be constructed in a laboratory setting to enable selected environmental parameters to be controlled and manipulated among multiple replications of simulated instream conditions. Flow chambers will consist of water tight channels fitted with water pumps that will re-circulate water and allow flow to mimic ‘natural’ low flow conditions. The flow rate of the water pumps can be adjusted to allow for adjustments to the simulated flow conditions. Flow chambers will be filled with stream water collected from Carters Creek under various flow conditions. (see following map). Once in the flow chambers, water will be sampled at prescribed time intervals and will be evaluated to concurrently determine changes in E. coli, Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC), pH, nutrient parameters (Ammonium, Nitrate, and Phosphorus) and turbidity. Individual parameter spikes will be periodically conducted to illustrate the direct impact of each parameter on E. coli growth and persistence.

Bacteria source identification will be conducted on multiple LU/LC types monitored at the USDA-ARS Grassland Research Facility in Riesel (see following map). USDA-ARS will collect 20 surface runoff samples and 25 soil samples from each of 3 established catchments in Riesel. USDA-ARS will remit samples to SAML for E. coli enumeration and BST analysis. SAML will utilize the library-dependent ERIC-RP BST technique and compare results to both a local and state-wide BST library to evaluate the sources contributing bacteria to specific LU/LCs. Camera trap arrays will be established on each LU/LC type to monitor and estimate species presence and develop species indices. Known sources of fecal material will be collected, processed and incorporated into the Texas E. coli BST Library and utilized in the library-dependent BST analysis to further support bacteria loading identification.

Delivery of project results and findings is a critical last step that will be completed through this project. Information on these topics is in high demand and ample opportunities exist to deliver findings to interested parties through focused workshops, meetings and conferences. One such avenue that results will potentially be presented at is the Texas Watershed Coordinator Roundtable. The July 27, 2011 meeting of this group focused solely on bacteria related content and this was by far the biggest audience at these roundtable events to date. The engagement of the audience clearly illustrated the desired/need for further information on bacteria related topics, especially those that will be addressed through this project. Development of peer-reviewed publications (or working drafts) is another way that education and outreach will be achieved through this project. Additionally, this provides extra credibility to the work done thus solidifying the significance of the work conducted through this project and enabling it to be more rapidly and widely utilized.

Project Location: Carters Creek watershed in Brazos County, Big Creek watershed in Falls County

Project Cost: State Funds ($376,612)

Project Participants: TSSWCB, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), Texas A&M AgriLife Research – Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAEN), Texas A&M AgriLife Research – Department of Soil and Crop Sciences (SCSC) Soil and Aquatic Microbiology Lab (SAML), Texas A&M AgriLife Research – Department of Soil and Crop Sciences (SCSC) Nutrient and Water Analysis Lab (NAWA), Texas A&M AgriLife Research – Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR), United States Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service, Grasslands Soil and Water Research Laboratory (USDA-ARS)

Project Workplan: 13-56

Project QAPP: 13-56

Project Final Report: 13-56

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