Illnesses Associated with Non-Point Source Contamination of Recreational Water and Potential New Management Tactics to Minimize Health Risk
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The timely and accurate detection of contamination events that may pose a risk to public health is a critical aspect of recreational water management. Currently, regular microbial monitoring of fecal indicator bacteria species Escherichia coli and Enterococcus is standard procedure for detecting changes in water quality and establishing the need to implement beach advisories or closures. In locations where predominant sources of pollution are those originating from agricultural or urban runoff as well as other animal waste however, the detection of these fecal indicator bacteria species may not consistently or accurately predict the presence of a human health risk. Furthermore, factors such as increased precipitation, elevated temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events associated with climate change will likely result in the increased prevalence of these types of contamination events and the need for them to be more immediately addressed in water management. A review of literature addressing recreational water management strategies and microbial monitoring procedures has been conducted in order to establish current knowledge gaps in the field, opportunities for future research, as well as potential alterations of the current management system that may be able to provide more effective public health protection. A number of limitations are associated with the reliance on indicator species detection to predict a public health risk. The establishment of additional or alternative species to monitor, as well as more efficient technologies to perform tests on water samples may eventually be able to address some of these issues. The incorporation of predictive modelling strategies into water management systems, which will allow beach managers to implement advisories or closures following likely contamination events prior to human exposure, may be an effective alternative to microbial monitoring, especially in locations where contamination results mainly from runoff and animal waste.