• Project No 1150
  • Project Name The inclusion of faecal source tracking (FST) into monitoring programmes to inform microbial risk assessments and assist incident response
  • Lead Organisation SA Water
  • Research Lead University of South Australia
  • Main Researcher Brendon King
  • Completion Year 2026

National Research Priority: Service Delivery

Project Description

Faecal source tracking (FST) involves the identifying the contamination pathways and potential health risk of faecal contamination in source waters and is an important strategy for contaminant management within catchments. The Smart Monitoring for Microbial Risk Assessment project (WaterRA #1103) aimed to develop and validate a protocol for FST including sampling requirements, quality standards and guidelines for data interpretation, with the objective to be able to integrate newer qPCR and vertebrate diversity profiling technologies into existing monitoring programmes.  The techniques and approach for source water characterisation using the methodologies demonstrated in Project 1103 show substantial promise in being able to provide the additional risk discrimination when assessing source waters in line with Health Based Targets guidelines.

Nevertheless, the work presented in WaterRA#1103 project identified several limitations to the wholesale utilisation of some aspects of this technology which need careful consideration before its widespread adoption across all catchment types. One of the most significant factors limiting the application of the vertebrate diversity profiling component of the technology was the amount (or lack) of starting target template available before the PCR amplification steps.

The proposed research aims to explore the application of passive samplers to source waters and examine if they can increase the target template captured available for PCR amplification and subsequent vertebrate diversity profiling, in addition to targeted qPCR analysis.  Furthermore, the proposal looks to build upon the learnings from Project 1103 so the molecular techniques developed can be more widely adopted to catchment risk assessment within the framework of Health Based Targets approach.