Pathogen Indicator Monitoring in the Ross Barnett Reservoir

Author(s): Capps, P.; Hicks, M.; Surbeck, C.

Man-made reservoirs are often used for both water supply and recreation. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent National Lakes Assessment survey includes water quality concerns for beneficial uses of such man-made reservoirs. The EPA ranks the Ross Barnett Reservoir watershed as the most important in the state of Mississippi and has selected it as a Priority Watershed. The Ross Barnett Reservoir, a 33,000-acre lake, provides drinking water to the city of Jackson, MS, and forty-eight surrounding communities. Further, an estimated 2.5 million people visit the reservoir each year for recreational purposes, including boating, fishing, water-skiing, and swimming. Substantial residential and commercial developments in Madison and Rankin counties along the 105 miles of reservoir shoreline have the potential to affect water quality in the reservoir. Due to the reservoir’s important role as a water-supply source, the protection of the water quality in the reservoir is crucial for human health. A collaborative investigation is underway by the University of Mississippi, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, to assess pathogen indicator concentrations in the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Sources of the pathogens may include stormwater runoff, failing septic systems, lake-bottom sediments, and humans in direct contact with the water. Data for pathogen indicators and other water-quality parameters such as water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, nitrate, phosphate, and solar strength, were collected at two recreational sites at the reservoir twice a week for 23 weeks through the spring and summer of 2013. Average concentrations for all E. coli, enterococci, and fecal coliform were 264 cfu/100mL, 175 cfu/100mL, and 298 cfu/100mL, and standard deviations for each were ± 654 cfu/100mL, ± 249 cfu/100mL, and ± 952 cfu/100mL, respectively. The concentrations of pathogen indicators and nutrients, and values of physical parameters will be statistically analyzed to provide insight about contamination sources. A review of past monitoring efforts in other related fresh-water lakes will also be reported.

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