New Waves March 2011

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

TWRI grant recipient studies the sources and risks of waterborne pathogens

By Melanie Orth

Joy Truesdale, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, worked with her advising professor, Dr. George Di Giovanni, to investigate the occurrence and control of waterborne pathogens in surface water.

Truesdale received a 2009-10 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) research grant. With the $5,000 grant, Truesdale examined the sources and risks of pathogen contamination in the Rio Grande. Analysis of three sampling sites along the river indicated the presence of Crytosporidium and Giardia along with human and hog Bacteroidales markers, which were present in chlorine- and UV-disinfected wastewater. Bacteroidales is a bacteria found in human and animal fecal material and serves as an indicator for pollution.

The results showed that Bacteroidales bacteria can persist through the wastewater treatment process, which could potentially impair the ability to determine the difference between treated water and raw sewage.

“The data being collected will help identify the sources and health risks associated with using the Rio Grande as a source of drinking water,” she said. “These results can then be shared among stakeholders to effectively address surface water treatment and appropriate management of water resources.”

After Truesdale completes her doctorate, she said she would like to continue working in the water quality industry and assist in developing effective water resource management strategies.

This project was funded by TWRI with funds obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as part of the National Institutes for Water Research annual research program. TWRI is the designated institute for water resources research in Texas.

For more information on Truesdale’s research and to read her final report, visit the TWRI USGS Research Grants webpage.

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