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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 17 No. 1, p. 27-34
    Received: Sept 22, 1986

    * Corresponding author(s):


Bacterial Pollution in Runoff from Agricultural Lands

  1. Wanada R. Baxter-Potter * and
  2. Martha W. Gilliland
  1. Civil Engineering Dep., Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln, Omaha, NE 68182-0178.



A review of the literature reporting the methods and results of studies concerned with the nature of nonpoint source microbial pollution leads to several conclusions: (i) Comparison of data from different studies may be complicated by variation in the choice of indicator organisms, variation in watershed size and homogeneity, and variation in media and procedures for determining fecal streptococcus densities. (ii) The ratio of fecal coliform to fecal streptococcus densities can be used to help identify particular sources of fecal pollution, but its usefulness declines with age. Its usefulness may also be affected by media and procedures used to determine fecal streptococcus densities, particularly when data derived from different media or procedures are compared. (iii) Bacterial densities in runoff from agricultural lands often exceed water quality standards. This is true of virtually all types of agricultural land. (iv) Although some connection between bacterial densities and stream discharge during storm events is apparent, the relationship is not simple. Factors such as temperature, hydrologic proximity of pollution sources, livestock management practices, wildlife activity, fecal deposit age, and channel and bank storage, all affect bacterial densities in runoff. Of these factors, only the influence of fecal deposit age on bacterial releases has been studied and quantified. (v) There is in the literature no loading function to predict bacterial densities in runoff that satisfactorily considers the factors listed above; however, typical density values may be used in a simple loading function to estimate probable density ranges.

This work was funded through a grant from the Jane Layman Fund of the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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