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Decay of intestinal enterococci concentrations in high-energy estuarine and coastal waters: towards real-time T90 values for modelling faecal indicators in recreational waters.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • D. Kay
  • C. M. Stapleton
  • M. D. Wyer
  • A. T. McDonald
  • J. Crowther
  • Nigel D. Paul
  • Keith Jones
  • C. Francis
  • J. Watkins
  • J. Wilkinson
  • N. Humphrey
  • B. Lin
  • L. Yang
  • R. A. Falconer
  • S. Gardner
Journal publication date02/2005
JournalWater Research
Number of pages13
Original languageEnglish


Intestinal enterococci are the principal ‘health-evidence-based’ parameter recommended by WHO for the assessment of marine recreational water compliance. Understanding the survival characteristics of these organisms in nearshore waters is central to public health protection using robust modelling to effect real-time prediction of water quality at recreation sites as recently suggested by WHO and the Commission of the European Communities Previous models have more often focused on the coliform parameters and assumed two static day-time and night-time T90 values to characterise the decay process. The principal driver for enterococci survival is the received dose of irradiance from sunlight. In the water column, transmission of irradiance is determined by turbidity produced by suspended material. This paper reports the results of irradiated microcosm experiments using simulated sunlight to investigate the decay of intestinal enterococci in relatively turbid estuarine and coastal waters collected from the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel, UK. High-turbidity estuarine waters produced a T90 value of 39.5 h. Low-turbidity coastal waters produced a much shorter T90 value of 6.6 h. In experiments receiving no irradiation, high-turbidity estuarine waters also produced a longer T90 of 65.1 h compared with corresponding low-turbidity coastal waters, T90 24.8 h. Irradiated T90 values were correlated with salinity, turbidity and suspended solids (r>0.8, p<0.001). The results suggest that enterococci decay in irradiated experiments with turbidity >200 NTU is similar to decay observed under dark conditions. Most significantly, these results suggest that modelling turbidity and or suspended solids offers a potential means of predicting T90 values in ‘real-time’ for discrete cells of a hydrodynamic model.