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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Chronic urban hotspots and agricultural drainage drive microbial pollution of karst water resources in rural developing regions
Author(s): Buckerfield, Sarah J
Quilliam, Richard S
Bussiere, Luc
Waldron, Susan
Naylor, Larissa A
Li, Siliang
Oliver, David M
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Keywords: Drinking water quality
Faecal contamination
Spatiotemporal controls
Karst water resources
Rural developing regions
Mixed-effects modelling
Issue Date: 20-Nov-2020
Citation: Buckerfield SJ, Quilliam RS, Bussiere L, Waldron S, Naylor LA, Li S & Oliver DM (2020) Chronic urban hotspots and agricultural drainage drive microbial pollution of karst water resources in rural developing regions. Science of The Total Environment, 744, Art. No.: 140898.
Abstract: Contamination of surface and groundwater systems with human and animal faecal matter leads to exposure of reliant populations to disease causing micro-organisms. This exposure route remains a major cause of infection and mortality in developing countries, particularly rural regions. To meet the UN's sustainable development goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, we need to identify the key controls on faecal contamination across relevant settings. We conducted a high-resolution spatial study of E. coli concentration in catchment drainage waters over 6 months in a mixed land-use catchment in the extensive karst region extending across impoverished southwest China. Using a mixed effects modelling framework, we tested how land-use, karst hydrology, antecedent meteorological conditions, agricultural cycles, hydrochemistry, and position in the catchment system affected E. coli concentrations. Land-use was the best predictor of faecal contamination levels. Sites in urban areas were chronically highly contaminated, but water draining from agricultural land was also consistently contaminated and there was a catchment wide pulse of higher E. coli concentrations, turbidity, and discharge during paddy field drainage. E. coli concentration increased with increasing antecedent rainfall across all land-use types and compartments of the karst hydrological system (underground and surface waters), but decreased with increasing pH. This is interpreted to be a result of processes affecting pH, such as water residence time, rather than the direct effect of pH on E. coli survival. Improved containment and treatment of human waste in areas of higher population density would likely reduce contamination hotspots, and further research is needed to identify the nature and distribution of sources in agricultural land.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140898
Rights: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. You are not required to obtain permission to reuse this article.
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