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Microbial fingerprint for source tracking in surface water management


“The quality of Dutch surface water is under pressure, partly due to sewage overflows, and effluent discharges from wastewater treatment plants. These can potentially contain faecal or other harmful micro-organisms. Is DNA fingerprinting suitable for identifying microbial contaminants, and detecting the location of the source?
Because of sewage overflows and discharges of effluent from wastewater treatment plants, surface water managers face changes in the quality of the surface water. From a management perspective, it is important to know precisely where these discharges originate from. Water managers (municipalities and water boards) have the following questions in this respect: 1. Is the impact of sewage overflows on the surface water recognisable and is it traceable to a specific overflow? 2. Is the discharge of effluent from wastewater treatment plants traceable, and if so, up to how far from the source? 3. Is leakage to the groundwater from a wastewater treatment plant’s aeration tank or from the effluent traceable, and up to what distance? 4. Is the origin of surface water that discharges into other surface waters (e.g. polder water in flood storage basins) traceable?”

(Citation: Timmers, P.H.A., van den Bulk, J., Heijnen, L., Kardinaal, W.E.A., Sollie, S., Medema, G.J. – Microbial fingerprint for source tracking in surface water management – Water Matters (2020) juni, p.4-7)

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