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Keywords:

  • fecal coliform bacteria;
  • land-use composition;
  • riverine water quality;
  • watershed protection

[1] The potential for riverine drinking source water to become contaminated with pathogens is related to the production and transport of fecal waste from within the local catchment area. Identifying specific relationships between land-use types and fecal contamination in riverine water provides an indication of the risk associated with land-use change and helps to target mitigation measures toward land-use types of concern. Fecal coliform (FC) data from 42 riverine sites across British Columbia (BC), Canada, were examined in relation to land-use composition (including 16 land-use types) in the local catchment area. FC concentration significantly increased in relation to anthropogenic land-use impacts but was negatively associated with undisturbed and high-elevation land types. Regression tree analysis identified that highest FC concentrations occurred in catchments characterized by more than 12.5% agricultural land and more than 1.6% urban land. Furthermore, the risk of violation of the BC partial treatment raw drinking water quality guideline for FC concentration (100 CFU 100 mL−1) increased in relation to agricultural impacts. Additional factors, such as sewage treatment discharge, low dilution in smaller streams, and higher temperatures, were associated with higher FC concentration among sites with similar levels of agricultural development. These results identify land-use types that present the greatest threat to riverine contamination, namely agricultural and urban land, and indicate the proportion of such land use associated with high contamination. Land use should be managed and source water protection should be targeted in light of these results so as to minimize the risk of surface water exposure to fecal contaminants.