Bacterial pathogens in Hawaiian coastal streams--associations with fecal indicators, land cover, and water quality

Water Res. 2011 May;45(11):3279-90. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2011.03.033. Epub 2011 Apr 12.


This work aimed to understand the distribution of five bacterial pathogens in O'ahu coastal streams and relate their presence to microbial indicator concentrations, land cover of the surrounding watersheds, and physical-chemical measures of stream water quality. Twenty-two streams were sampled four times (in December and March, before sunrise and at high noon) to capture seasonal and time of day variation. Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio vulnificus, and V. parahaemolyticus were widespread -12 of 22 O'ahu streams had all five pathogens. All stream waters also had detectable concentrations of four fecal indicators and total vibrio with log mean ± standard deviation densities of 2.2 ± 0.8 enterococci, 2.7 ± 0.7 Escherichia coli, 1.1 ± 0.7 Clostridium perfringens, 1.2 ± 0.8 F(+) coliphages, and 3.6 ± 0.7 total vibrio per 100 ml. Bivariate associations between pathogens and indicators showed enterococci positively associated with the greatest number of bacterial pathogens. Higher concentrations of enterococci and higher incidence of Campylobacter were found in stream waters collected before sunrise, suggesting these organisms are sensitive to sunlight. Multivariate regression models of microbes as a function of land cover and physical-chemical water quality showed positive associations between Salmonella and agricultural and forested land covers, and between S. aureus and urban and agricultural land covers; these results suggested that sources specific to those land covers may contribute these pathogens to streams. Further, significant associations between some microbial targets and physical-chemical stream water quality (i.e., temperature, nutrients, turbidity) suggested that organism persistence may be affected by stream characteristics. Results implicate streams as a source of pathogens to coastal waters. Future work is recommended to determine infectious risks of recreational waterborne illness related to O'ahu stream exposures and to mitigate these risks through control of land-based runoff sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Hawaii
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Regression Analysis
  • Rivers / microbiology*
  • Seasons
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollution / statistics & numerical data