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Enhancing fecal coliform total maximum daily load models through bacterial source tracking

January 1, 2004

Surface water impairment by fecal coliform bacteria is a water quality issue of national scope and importance. In Virginia, more than 400 stream and river segments are on the Commonwealth's 2002 303(d) list because of fecal coliform impairment. Total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) will be developed for most of these listed streams and rivers. Information regarding the major fecal coliform sources that impair surface water quality would enhance the development of effective watershed models and improve TMDLs. Bacterial source tracking (BST) is a recently developed technology for identifying the sources of fecal coliform bacteria and it may be helpful in generating improved TMDLs. Bacterial source tracking was performed, watershed models were developed, and TMDLs were prepared for three streams (Accotink Creek, Christians Creek, and Blacks Run) on Virginia's 303(d) list of impaired waters. Quality assurance of the BST work suggests that these data adequately describe the bacteria sources that are impairing these streams. Initial comparison of simulated bacterial sources with the observed BST data indicated that the fecal coliform sources were represented inaccurately in the initial model simulation. Revised model simulations (based on BST data) appeared to provide a better representation of the sources of fecal coliform bacteria in these three streams. The coupled approach of incorporating BST data into the fecal coliform transport model appears to reduce model uncertainty and should result in an improved TMDL.

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