Bacteria | Utah Water Quality

    UPCOMING EVENTS

    View full calendar

    Bacteria In Water

    Bacteria and related single-celled organisms are increasingly recognized for their importance in decomposing organic material, processing minerals and nutrients, and in some cases converting carbon dioxide to new plant material.

    From a water quality perspective, we are mostly concerned about the role bacteria play in diseases. 
    Glass of WaterUnsafe drinking water from water borne pathogens have enormous impacts across the world. 

    According to the World Health Organization

    • Over 2 billion people today do not have access to proper sanitation,
    • more than 1 million people obtain their water from contaminated sources. 
    • Diarrhea caused by water borne pathogens is a leading cause of illness and death in much of the world. 
    • Over 2 million people (mostly children) die each year from water borne bacteria such as Shigella. 

    Even in the U.S. water-borne pathogens are of concern.  In Utah, drinking water and drinking water sources are tested regularly for E coli.  This particular bacterium  does not necessarily cause disease, but it is found in the intestines of warm blooded animals.  Presence of E coli suggests possible fecal contamination. 

    WHAT ARE COLIFORM BACTERIA?

    Coliform bacteria, including E. coli, are common microscopic organisms. They originate in the intestinal tract of warm blooded animals and may also be found in soil and vegetation.


    WHY CARE ABOUT COLIFORM BACTERIA?

    sick girl

    Most coliform bacteria are harmless but their presence indicate the possible presence of disease causing bacteria, viruses or parasites from sources such as raw sewage.  These organisms can cause a number of diseases, such as:

    • typhoid fever
    • cholera
    • hepatitis
    • dysentery
    • giardiasis
    • hemolytic uremic syndrome

    Utah surface water standards

    Drinking water sources:  668*

    Contact recreation: 409* 

       *  maximum colonies / 100 ml

    NOTE:  Drinking water standards vary with the size of the system.  See Utah Drinking Water Standards (microbiological quality)

     

    HUMAN FACTORS INFLUENCING COLIFORM BACTERIA  AND HOW TO TREAT IT

    cows

    Most coliform bacteria enter streams or rivers through direct deposition of waste in the water and runoff from areas with high concentrations of animals. Domesticated animals contribute heavily to bacterial pollution. Runoff from woodlands, septic tanks, and sewage plants may also cause an increase in coliform and other bacterial pollution. If you rely on a public water system then your water provider is responsible for the testing and treatment of your water. If they find it they will notify you within 24 hours and might issue a "Boil Order" notice.

    If you use a private well system, then the testing and treatment are up to you. There are inexpensive tests you can do for your water, and if it is contaminated, then check out this Coliform Bacteria factsheet. For more information on testing and treating public and private water systems, visit our Drinking Water page and check out our Pollution page which will describe more about testing and treating.

    wellhead


    WHAT ARE E. COLI?

    poop

    Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli) is a single species in the fecal coliform group. It is a bacterium that is found in the intestines of humans and other warm blooded animals. E. coli does not occur naturally in soil nor vegetation. It will only enter water from fecal contamination.


    WHY CARE ABOUT E. COLI?

    According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) E. coli is the best indicator of health risk from water contact in recreational waters. The presence of E. coli in water is an indication of recent contamination from sewage or animal wastes, which may have many disease-causing organisms. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, E. coli O157:H7 can infect you from water contamination and may cause severe diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and abdominal cramps. In some people (children under 5 and the elderly particularly) an infection can cause a complication referred to as hemolytic uremic syndrome. In this syndrome red blood cells are destroyed and kidneys fail. Approximately 2-7% of infections lead to this complication. It is a life-threatening condition that usually needs to be treated in an intensive care unit.

    floating


    HOW IS E. COLI MONITORED

    easy gel

    Priority recreational waters are monitored monthly in Utah from May - October by the Division of Water Quality and partner cooperators.  The method used to collect this data is IDEXX. Utah Water Watch (UWW) helps with the collection of some of these samples and follow the state protocols. Consistant high levels of E. coli can lead to the closing of public beaches.  

    Additionally, UWW volunteers collect data through their Tier 1 monitoring using a Coliscan Easygel method.  This data collection method is less rigorous, but can be used for scanning and educational purposes. 

    Drinking water is monitored more frequently.

    DRINKING WATER

    drinking

    If you rely on a public water system, the USEPA requires these systems to monitor for coliform bacteria. Total coliform is analyzed first because the test produces results faster. Any sample that comes back positive for total coliform must be analyzed for either fecal coliform or E. coli, which indicate contamination of animal waste or human sewage. Most water companies will send out an annual Consumer Confidence Report which discloses contaminants found, possible health effects, and the water’s source. This report is generally sent in July with your water bill. If you do not receive a report, contact your water company for this information. Private water systems are more involved. Check out this Coliform Bacteria factsheet. For more information on testing and treating public and private water systems, visit our Drinking Water page and check out our Pollution page which will describe more about testing and treating.

    NATURAL WATER

    natural

    The Utah Division of Water Quality (UDWQ) has a monitoring program for E. coli. Unfortunately it is impossible to test all waters where people may recreate because monitoring resources are limited. Hence, E. coli monitoring is focused on places where most people recreate. In Utah there are 31 lakes and reservoirs that have been identified as highly recreated bodies of water and are currently being monitored for E. coli. Sampling of these bodies of water occurs from May through September each year. In the future UDWQ intends to sample every lake and reservoir in the state.


    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

    HELPFUL LINKS

    BACTERIOLOGICAL TESTING LABS IN UTAH (BY COUNTY)

    BRIGHAM CITY LAB
    Richard Mickelsen
    675 North 1175 West, Brigham City, UT 84302
    Phone No.: (435) 723-3146
     
    TREMONTON WTP LAB
    Jon Miller
    300 East 1200 South, Tremonton, UT 84337
    Phone No.: (435) 257-9472
    BEAR RIVER DIST HLTH DEPT. LAB
    Dr. Ed Redd
    655 East 1300 North, Logan, UT 84341
    Phone No.: (435) 792-6580
    SE UTAH DIST. HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    David Cunningham, Health Officer, 
    28 South 100 East, Price, UT 84501
    Phone No.: (435) 637-3671
    DAVIS CNTY. HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    Dee Jette
    99 South Main Street, Farmington, UT 84025
    Phone No.: (801) 451-3296
     
    NORTH DAVIS COUNTY SEWER DIST. LAB
    Ken Burgener
    4252 West 2200 South, Syracuse, UT 84075
    Phone No.: (801) 728-6825
     
    WEBER BASIN WATER QUALITY LAB (NP)
    Brad Nelson
    2837 East Highway 193, Layton, UT 84040
    Phone No.: (801) 771-4362
    DUCHESNE VALLEY WATER TREATMENT PLANT
    Joe Williford
    P.O. Box 912 Starvation Reservoir, Duchesne, UT 84021
    Phone No.: (435) 738-5725
    SOUTHERN UTAH UNIVERSITY WATER LAB
    Jory Ty Redd
    351 West Center Street, Science Building Room 206, Cedar City, UT 84720
    Phone No.: (435) 586-7914
     
    CEDAR CITY REGIONAL WATER TREATMENT PLANT LABORATORY
    Andrew Oko
    7218 North 2300 West, Cedar City, UT 84720
    Phone No.: (435) 247-1160
    CENTRAL VALLEY WATER RECLAMATION LAB
    Anthony G. Daw
    800 West Central Valley Road, South Salt Lake, UT 84119
    Phone No.: (801) 973-9100
     
    CHEMTECH/FORD CHEMICAL LAB
    David Gayer
    6100 South Stratler Avenue, Murray, UT 84107-6905
    Phone No.: (801) 262-7299
     
    JORDAN VALLEY WTP
    Te Van Phan
    15305 South 3200 West, Bluffdale, UT 84065
    Phone No.: (801) 446-2051
     
    METROPOLITAN WATER DIST. LAB
    Claudia Wheeler
    3430 East Danish Road, Sandy, UT 84093-2102
    Phone No.: (801) 942-9654
     
    UTAH DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DIVISION OF LAB SERVICES
    4431 South 2700 West, Taylorville, UT 84119-8600
    Phone No.: (801) 965-2400
    CENTRAL UTAH DIST HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    John Vercor, LEHS
    70 Westview Drive, Richfield, UT 84701-1868
    Phone No.: (435) 896-5451
    SUMMIT COUNTY HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    Roy E. Dixon
    85 North 50 East, P.O. Box 128, Coalville, UT 84017
    Phone No.: (435) 336-3222
    ASHLEY VALLEY WTP LAB
    Brad Grammer
    3550 North 2500 West, Vernal, UT 84078
    Phone No.: (435) 789-0421
     
    TRI COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY
    Darrin Brown, Env. Director
    133 South 500 East Vernal, UT 84078
    Phone No.: (435) 247-1160
    PROVO WATER RESOURCES LAB
    Michael Scheetz
    1685 South 350 East, Provo, UT 84606
    Phone No.: (801) 852-6796
     
    RICHARDS LABS
    Dean Richards
    45 North 100 East, Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
    Phone No.: (801) 785-2500
     
    TIMPVIEW ANALYTICAL LABS
    Dee M. Freeman
    1165 North 1600 West
    Orem, UT 84057
    Phone No.: (801) 229-2282
     
    UTAH VALLEY WTP LAB
    Monica Hoyt
    1120 East Cascade Drive, Orem, UT 84097
    Phone No.: (801) 221-0192
    JORDANELLE LABORATORY
    Shane Paddock
    10500 North 1420 West, P.O. Box 519, Heber City, UT 84032
    Phone No.: (435) 333-0475
    GEORGE RWRF LAB
    Leslie Wentland
    3780 South 1550 West St. George, UT 84790
    Phone No.: (435) 634-5849
    EARTH NET CONSULTING, INC.
    William Reyns
    3930 Washington Blvd. Country Club Complex, Suite A South Ogden, UT 84403-1873
    Phone No.: (801) 621-5510