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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recreational Water Quality Monitoring: A proposal for a new, rapid microbiological method


The objective of this capstone project is to examine the scientific, legal, and policy issues involved with implementing a new, rapid method for detection of fecal indicator bacteria in recreational waters to improve human health and safety and contribute to marine biodiversity and conservation. A new method is needed because current methods do not provide timely information needed to make decisions about beach closures. Today’s techniques require long incubation periods and test results are not obtained for 24-48 hours. This has important consequences for human health as swimmers are exposed to waterborne pathogens during this time. Currently, most people who become ill from swimming in fecal contaminated water do so while the beaches are open. In the last ten years, new techniques have been developed in molecular biology that are appropriate for water quality testing. These new methods would greatly decrease the time to test results. Time to test result is a critical component of water quality monitoring and the main motivation behind using a new, rapid technique in order to safeguard human health. This project proposes the use of a rapid nucleic acid detection system, such as real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) technique. It examines their advantages over the current methods and the challenges of widespread implementation.

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