FRST (now MBIE) Research Programme

Faecal source tracking is one of the key research areas in the FRST (now MBIE (external link) ) funded research programme "Tools for Sustainable Management of Surface and Ground Water Quality for Human Use" (Contract C03X0303 )

The major aims of this research programme are to determine the impacts of land use change on surface and ground water quality, particularly with respect to microbial quality, and to provide tools for sustainable management of water resources.

  • Objective 1 determines the loading of microbes from the major animal and bird species;
  • Objective 2 provides tools to discriminate between different sources of human, animal and bird faecal contamination;
  • Objective 3 characterises and models pesticide leaching (mobility and persistence) to groundwater under New Zealand field conditions (this objective ended June 05);
  • Objective 4 examines the biophysical processes determining transport and fate of groundwater contaminants using a range of laboratory and field studies; and
  • Objective 5 determines the factors influencing the transport and fate of nitrate through the vadose zone and into the groundwater system, as part of a large multi-agency collaborative project, Integrated Research for Aquifer Protection (IRAP).

Objective 2: Discrimination of Human, Animal, and Bird Faecal Pollution in Water

This objective will develop tools to distinguish sources of faecal contamination of water - is the source human, farm animal, domestic animal, wild animals, or bird? The persistence characteristics of each of the markers developed will be determined in conjunction with Objective 1. The tools developed, in conjunction with sampling guidelines, including descriptions of limitations, statistical requirements and appropriate interpretations, will enable interventions to be prioritised and targeted to the actual sources of contamination resulting in improvements to water quality.

Resource managers and other end users of faecal source tools are aware of tools, advantages and limitations, and are applying the tools appropriately. Presentations have been made to at least four end user meetings. There have been at least ten end-users that have enquired about the faecal source tools and five end-users that have used these tools; these enquiries and uses have been documented.

Research topics include:

  • Multiple antibiotic resistance typing of enterococci
  • Synchronous Scan Spectrometry (SSS) for rapid, putative quantification of FWAs in water samples
  • Source specific molecular markers for avian, canine and other sources
  • Faecal sterol analysis
  • Field trials of faecal source tools
  • Sunlight effects on molecular markers, FWAs and faecal sterols
  • Use of source specific PCR makers on contaminated shellfish

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