Collaborative Research: Comprehensive microbiological water quality and risk assessment tools for timely water management

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

Overview:
Contamination of water with pathogens can cause human diseases. To maintain water quality and assure safety, it is necessary to monitor the levels of pathogens and analyze their potential risks. Major challenges in reliably assessing potential health risks include the lack of timely information on pathogen concentrations and rapid, standardized approaches for quantifying associated risks. A novel approach is proposed here to assess comprehensive health risks by performing quantitative microbiological risk assessment (QMRA) based on the concentrations of various pathogens predicted by fecal indicators (FI), microbial source tracking (MST) markers, and environmental parameters. The central hypothesis, formulated based on the preliminary data, is that the concentration of a pathogen can be expressed as a function of FI, MST, and environmental parameters. The rationale underlying the proposed research is that once reliable pathogen predictive models and a QMRA workflow are established, potential risks associated with water samples can be assessed on the same day of water collection without specialized skills and costly equipment.
The specific objectives of this research are to (1) simultaneously quantify major waterborne pathogens (bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens) as well as FI and MST markers in water samples, (2) create and validate models to predict pathogen concentrations from FI and MST marker data, and (3) establish a QMRA workflow targeting multiple pathogens. This research will take advantage of the high-throughput microfluidic DNA quantification technology to collect large data sets of pathogens, FI, and MST marker concentrations.
To increase the broader impact of this research, this project plans to conduct educational activities for undergraduate students as well as outreach activities targeting the managers of wastewater treatment plants and recreational beaches.

Intellectual Merit:
This research will provide pathogen predictive models with FI and MST marker as the input data. In addition, a QMRA workflow targeting multiple pathogens will also be established. As a result of this research, people such as managers of wastewater treatment plants and recreational beaches will be able to assess their water quality and prevent disease outbreaks in a timely manner, without specialized skills and costly equipment. While there are numerous models to predict FI from environmental parameters, only limited attempts were made to predict concentrations of pathogens, most likely due to the lack of comprehensive data sets. This research will take advantage of high-throughput microfluidic DNA quantification technology to collect large data sets of pathogens, FI, and MST marker concentrations. These data will serve as a foundation to advance scientific knowledge on the ecology of pathogens in water environments.

Broader Impacts:
This project aims to (i) promote young students to pursue environmental science and engineering fields and to (ii) transfer research knowledge to local water managers as well as general public. To achieve these goals, this project proposes a comprehensive plan that will involve undergraduate and high school students in environmental research, conduct outreach activities at local farmer's markets and at the Minnesota State Fair, and to organize a QMRA workshop for managers of local wastewater treatment plants and recreational beaches.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date5/1/204/30/23

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $103,010.00

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