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Collection methods and quality assessment for Escherichia coli, water quality, and microbial source tracking data within Tumacácori National Historical Park and the upper Santa Cruz River, Arizona, 2015-16

March 5, 2018
Tumacácori National Historical Park protects the culturally important Mission, San José de Tumacácori, while also managing a portion of the ecologically diverse riparian corridor of the Santa Cruz River. This report describes the methods and quality assurance procedures used in the collection of water samples for the analysis of Escherichia coli (E. coli), microbial source tracking markers, suspended sediment, water-quality parameters, turbidity, and the data collection for discharge and stage; the process for data review and approval is also described. Finally, this report provides a quantitative assessment of the quality of the E. coli, microbial source tracking, and suspended sediment data.
The data-quality assessment revealed that bias attributed to field and laboratory contamination was minimal, with E. coli detections in only 3 out of 33 field blank samples analyzed. Concentrations in the field blanks were several orders of magnitude lower than environmental concentrations. The microbial source tracking (MST) field blank was below the detection limit for all MST markers analyzed. Laboratory blanks for E. coli at the USGS Arizona Water Science Center and laboratory blanks for MST markers at the USGS Ohio Water Microbiology Laboratory were all below the detection limit. Irreplicate data for E. coli and suspended sediment indicated that bias was not introduced to the data by combining samples collected using discrete sampling methods with samples collected using automatic sampling methods.
The split and sequential E. coli replicate data showed consistent analytical variability and a single equation was developed to explain the variability of E. coli concentrations. An additional analysis of analytical variability for E. coli indicated analytical variability around 18 percent relative standard deviation and no trend was observed in the concentration during the processing and analysis of multiple split-replicates. Two replicate samples were collected for MST and individual markers were compared for a base flow and flood sample. For the markers found in common between the two types of samples, the relative standard deviation for the base flow sample was more than 3 times greater than the markers in the flood sample. Sequential suspended sediment replicates had a relative standard deviation of about 1.3 percent, indicating that environmental and analytical variability was minimal.
A holding time review and laboratory study analysis supported the extended holding times required for this investigation. Most concentrations for flood and base-flow samples were within the theoretical variability specified in the most probable number approach suggesting that extended hold times did not overly influence the final concentrations reported.