Case Studies

These pages include examples of where we have applied the faecal source identification tools to look at various water quality issues. In some cases a source could be indentified, in others it was less clear. The purpose of these pages is to demonstrate why and how these tools have been used, and to provide examples of the sort of results that might be achieved.


Report for Ecan on faecal pollution sources in the Avon river in Christchurch:
PDF iconFaecal source tracking in the Avon River, Christchurch, March - May 2009; Report No. R09/67 (external link)
This report is one of the 2008-2009 Environment Canterbury funded projects that form part of the implementation of the Ihutai Management Plan 2004. It was a joint project of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust, Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury. The ESR study investigated the sources of elevated levels of E. coli in the Avon River during high and low rainfall events.
Follow on study: Microbial Quality of the Avon River, June 2013:PDF iconAvon-River-Report-June-2013 (external link)
Report on Faecal Source Tracking Analysis – CAREX Silverstream, Lincoln, Canterbury, May 2018:PDF icon Report-Silverstream-Sediment-Traps-May-2018.pdf





Envirolink is a grants scheme set up from funding provided through the Foundation for Science, Research and Technology (FRST). It is designed to support regional councils (RC) in environmental management by funding research in areas identified by the RCs as requiring scientific input. The objective is to increase the flow of scientific knowledge from researchers to practitioners in the area of environmental management. Envirolink assists with the adaptation of research tools (such as the faecal source tracking toolbox) to the local environment. This integration of available information is designed to assist regional councils in the decision making process by applying existing environmental knowledge.

Additional information on grants and the application process can be viewed at the Envirolink website (external link) .

The following Envirolink Projects are water quality related, some of which are directly related to faecal source tracking.

Open PDF documentFaecal source discrimination trial: Environment Southland (2006) Envirolink 106 . (external link)

During this study samples were collected from ten surface water sites, and one meat processing effluent. Faecal coliform and E. coli counts were determined in the ten surface water sites, and seven of the samples were analysed for presence and quantity of faecal sterols. Six of the sampling sites were also analysed using microbial assays.

Open PDF documentLower Matai River bacteriological monitoring results - a review (2007) Envirolink NLCC8 . (external link)

The Nelson City Council sought advice from ESR, on possible reasons for, and microbial issues related to, elevated E. coli counts at sampling sites in the lower reaches of the Maitai River.

Open PDF documentFaecal indicators in scats from Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) (2007) Envirolink TSDC30 (external link)

We conclude that Black Swans carry potentially significant levels of the traditional microbial indicators (faecal coliforms, E. coli and enterococci) used to assess microbial water quality and the safety of shellfish. This study did not aim to assess the quantitative impact of Black Swan faecal material on the contamination of shellfish; however it has confirmed that Black Swans are a potential source of faecal contamination of water and shellfish. 

Open PDF documentBacterial contamination of seawater and shellfish (2008) Envirolink MLDC28 (external link)

The aim of this project was to determine if and how faecal source identification tools could be best applied to determine the source of bacterial contamination of water and shellfish in Marlborough. There were two main components of this work – water sites at Momorangi, and shellfish samples from other sites in the Marlborough Sounds.

Open PDF documentDevelopment of decision analysis trees for faecal source tracking in surface waters (2008) Envirolink Medium Advice Grant: TSDC33 (external link)

This report outlines the development of three decision trees to enable regional water managers to decide which faecal source tracking methods are useful for the type of faecal contamination event being investigated. The decision analysis trees provide step-by-step guidance through the process of determining which of the microbial and chemical tools are appropriate. Each step of the decision tree incorporates a colour code which specifies the cost, timeframe and degree of certainty associated with individual and combined microbial/chemical tools. 

Open PDF documentFaecal source tracking at recreational bathing locations in Northland (2008) Envirolink NLRC70 (external link)

An investigation of faecal sources using the FST toolbox at several Northland beach areas which had consistently recorded elevated levels of E. coli.



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