Over a five year period (2004-08), 1171 surface water samples were collected from up to 24 sampling locations representing a wide range of stream orders, in a river basin in eastern Ontario, Canada. Water was analyzed for Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cyst densities, the presence of Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica, Campylobacter spp., Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli O157:H7. The study objective was to explore associations among pathogen densities/occurrence and objectively defined land use, weather, hydrologic, and water quality variables using CART (Classification and Regression Tree) and binary logistical regression techniques. E. coli O157:H7 detections were infrequent, but detections were related to upstream livestock pasture density; 20% of the detections were located where cattle have access to the watercourses. The ratio of detections:non-detections for Campylobacter spp. was relatively higher (>1) when mean air temperatures were 6% below mean study period temperature values (relatively cooler periods). Cooler water temperatures, which can promote bacteria survival and represent times when land applications of manure typically occur (spring and fall), may have promoted increased frequency of Campylobacter spp. Fifty-nine percent of all Salmonella spp. detections occurred when river discharge on a branch of the river system of Shreve stream order = 9550 was >83 percentile. Hydrological events that promote off farm/off field/in stream transport must manifest themselves in order for detection of Salmonella spp. to occur in surface water in this region. Fifty seven percent of L. monocytogenes detections occurred in spring, relative to other seasons. It was speculated that a combination of winter livestock housing, silage feeding during winter, and spring application of manure that accrued during winter, contributed to elevated occurrences of this pathogen in spring. Cryptosporidium and Giardia oocyst and cyst densities were, overall, positively associated with surface water discharge, and negatively associated with air/water temperature during spring-summer-fall. Yet, some of the highest Cryptosporidium oocyst densities were associated with low discharge conditions on smaller order streams, suggesting wildlife as a contributing fecal source. Fifty six percent of all detections of ≥ 2 bacteria pathogens (including Campylobacter spp., Salmonella spp., and E. coli O157:H7) in water was associated with lower water temperatures (<∼ 14 °C; primarily spring and fall) and when total rainfall the week prior to sampling was >∼ 27 mm (62 percentile). During higher water temperatures (>∼ 14 °C), a higher amount of weekly rainfall was necessary to promote detection of ≥ 2 pathogens (primarily summer; weekly rainfall ∼>42 mm (>77 percentile); 15% of all ≥ 2 detections). Less rainfall may have been necessary to mobilize pathogens from adjacent land, and/or in stream sediments, during cooler water conditions; as these are times when manures are applied to fields in the area, and soil water contents and water table depths are relatively higher. Season, stream order, turbidity, mean daily temperature, surface water discharge, cropland coverage, and nearest upstream distance to a barn and pasture were variables that were relatively strong and recurrent with regard to discriminating pathogen presence and absence, and parasite densities in surface water in the region.
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