A Comprehensive Approach in Identifying Sources of Contamination, Understanding Water Quality Perception, and Translating Information through Community Outreach in the Upper Gila Watershed in Clifton, Arizona
Microbial Souce Tracking
Soil, Water & Environmental Science
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAs of 2010, there are approximately twenty one surface water locations classified as impaired for Escherichia coli (E. coli) contamination in the State of Arizona. Of note is the San Francisco River (SFR) which is currently listed on the US EPA 303d list of impaired waters due to E. coli bacteria present at higher concentrations than the US EPA standards for partial- and full-body contact. In 2010-2011 surface water samples were collected at sites within the impaired region to monitor E. coli and areas known for heavy recreational uses. Of 70 samples collected over 1 year, 81% were positive for universal Bacteroides marker (Allbac). Of the 57 Allbac-positive samples, 68% show contributions of the human-specific marker and 60% were positive for bovine-specific marker. While 28% of the total samples assayed showed elevated levels of E. coli (>235 MPN/100mL), there were minimal significant correlations between Bacteroides and generic E. coli across all samples. While this information is significant, past research has suggested that successfully distinguishing the sources of fecal contamination will not alone reduce or eliminate disease associated with contaminated water unless these investigations are coupled with public outreach and education. With this in mind a survey was developed to gather information about water quality perceptions, water use, peoples' attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors related to the water resources in Clifton, AZ. Survey questions consisted of multiple choice and Likert scales questions and were provided in both English and Spanish and were conducted during the summer of 2012 and winter of 2013. A total of 150 surveys were deployed with 38 surveys completed for a response rate of 25%. Our study findings indicate mixed attitudes on water quality with 80% reporting the SFR has poor water quality for drinking and 39% agree the SFR has poor water quality for swimming. Yet, 84% consider the river safe enough for picnics and activities near the water. Also, it was interesting to note participants' opinions regarding consequences of poor water quality with 66% of respondents indicating that they are concerned with poor water quality and their health. Clifton is a very tight knit community so it was not unexpected that the majority of the respondents (61%) get water quality information by having conversations with other people and 68% from newspapers, factsheets and brochures. Based on the survey responses, our team worked to develop two peer reviewed Extension publications entitled; Microbial Source Tracking: Watershed Characterization and Source Identification (Arizona Cooperative Extension, #AZ1547) and Water Quality, E. coli, and Your Health (#AZ1624). Publications have been developed in both English and Spanish and will be part of future outreach to this and other Arizona communities. It is our goal that these survey findings can be used to better tailor outputs appropriate for the targeted audience, namely the local Hispanic population. These results are important because they add to understanding perceptions of water quality and health risks in this rural community; and can lend towards enhanced outreach practices in other similar communities.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Soil, Water & Environmental Science