We provide highly specific and sensitive methods that can reliably and cost-effectively determine the sources of faecal contamination in environmental waters.

The challenge

Determining contamination sources

Beach advisory due to faecal pollution

In surface waters, measurements of faecal indicator bacteria (FIB) are often used as surrogates for pathogens. These are abundant in the gastrointestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals, and are shed in faeces along with pathogens, but they are ubiquitous in animal faeces and therefore provide no information about contamination source.

Without knowing the sources of faecal contamination, it is not possible for water utilities and regulators to infer the magnitude of human health risk necessary to determine best management practices or the need for remediation.

Seagull contaminating recreational water

Our response

Water and sediment monitoring

We are international leaders in pathogen monitoring in water and sediment and assessing human health risks. We undertake research on water safety and water quality by:

  • Developing new generations of rapid and quantitative techniques for pathogen monitoring in source waters.
  • Studying the fate and transport of pathogens in the environment.
  • High-throughput genomic sequencing for surveillance of microbial communities in drinking and environmental waters.
  • Human health risk assessment of water sources including alternative waters.
  • Investigating water recycling and validating treatment processes.
  • Evaluating emerging contaminants such as antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in wastewater and environments.

We provide targeted solutions to identify the point and non-point sources of microbial contaminants in catchment waters. We use cutting edge molecular marker genes to pinpoint the sources of faecal pollution in catchment water samples with highly specific and sensitive methods.

We evaluate and develop of innovative microbial source tracking (MST) techniques tailored to stakeholder needs, making major advances in the ability to protect public health and water quality both within Australia and internationally. Our MST research is enhancing knowledge of the distribution, behaviour and specificity of molecular markers, and their association with pathogens and chemical contaminants.

Microbial source tracking: a forensic approach for water quality monitoring

The results

Customised microbial source tracking and pathogen monitoring toolbox for utilities, local government and industries

We are demonstrating and customising MST techniques and transferring to Australian utilities to improve the speed and accuracy of decisions being made about potable and recreational water safety. For example, we are working with Sydney Water to implement MST techniques to determine the fraction of sewage pollution in Sydney estuarine waters to mitigate human health risks and estuarine water quality degradation from wet weather sewer overflows.

Do business with us to help your organisation thrive

We partner with small and large companies, government and industry in Australia and around the world.

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