Rapid detection of faecal pollution in bathing water

When the weather’s good, the public increasingly looks to water for its bathing and recreation. This can involve massive numbers of people. Cities, municipalities, Water Authorities and Rijkswaterstaat do their best to make city water and designated bathing locations accessible and suitable for recreationists and for sports and benefit events, like City Swims. It is extremely important that citizens can trust that their bathing water is healthy. Nevertheless, bathers have become sick as a result of strong pollution due to faecal matter, blue-green algae or rat urine. Furthermore, pollution peaks also pose problems for bathing water managers. This can lead beach locations to lose their Blue Flag certification. Rapid measurement methods are needed to limit the risk for bathers; methods that can quickly and clearly detect variations in water quality. But today’s measurement methods are not fast enough for this, and more accurate methods are needed.


Information about the microbial water quality in rural and urban areas is needed to support decisions about public events. This also applies to the current situation regarding the safety of bathing water, including communications on the subject to the public. A better and quicker monitoring of water quality means that recreation and events can take place in safety. In this project we compare conventional methods with new, rapid methods of detecting faecal pollutants in bathing water. Besides being used in field measurements, the methods will be validated in the laboratory. This will include a determination of the detection limits of the methods, and setting the measurement results against the guidelines for bathing water quality. The applicability of the methods to surface water at different locations will also be investigated.


The project comprises three subprojects. For the first of these, in June 2020, a start was made with the detection of E. coli, blue-green algae toxin genes, and Leptospira (Weil’s disease) at eleven bathing locations, using Orvion’s mobile qPCR method (Orvion UDetect). The results are to be compared with those of the conventional MPN method and the lab-based qPCR method. In the second subproject, the BACT control sensor is to be used at several measurement locations – the canals of Breda, the Waal river at Nijmegen, and the Marineterrein in Amsterdam – for the continuous monitoring of E. coli. These results are to be compared with those of three innovative mobile qPCR methods (Orvion UDetect, Biomeme and Primerdesign’s Sopachem Genesig Q16). Lastly, the third subproject focuses on the above-mentioned validation in the laboratory.


It is expected the new methods examined in this research will provide a more accurate means of testing the microbial quality of bathing water. The laboratories that conduct this work will thus be better positioned to support cities and water managers. This will result in healthier recreation and a better living environment.

Copyright: AQUON.