Molecular tools for bathing water assessment in Europe: Balancing social science research with a rapidly developing environmental science evidence-base

David M. Oliver, Nick D. Hanley, Melanie van Niekerk, David Kay, A. Louise Heathwaite, Sharyl J.M. Rabinovici, Julie L. Kinzelman, Lora E. Fleming, Jonathan Porter, Sabina Shaikh, Rob Fish, Sue Chilton, Julie Hewitt, Elaine Connolly, Andy Cummins, Klaus Glenk, Calum McPhail, Eric McRory, Alistair McVittie, Amanna GilesSuzanne Roberts, Katherine Simpson, Dugald Tinch, Ted Thairs, Lisa M. Avery, Andy J.A. Vinten, Bill D. Watts, Richard S. Quilliam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

The use of molecular tools, principally qPCR, versus traditional culture-based methods for quantifying microbial parameters (e.g., Fecal Indicator Organisms) in bathing waters generates considerable ongoing debate at the science–policy interface. Advances in science have allowed the development and application of molecular biological methods for rapid (~2 h) quantification of microbial pollution in bathing and recreational waters. In contrast, culture-based methods can take between 18 and 96 h for sample processing. Thus, molecular tools offer an opportunity to provide a more meaningful statement of microbial risk to water-users by providing near-real-time information enabling potentially more informed decision-making with regard to water-based activities. However, complementary studies concerning the potential costs and benefits of adopting rapid methods as a regulatory tool are in short supply. We report on findings from an international Working Group that examined the breadth of social impacts, challenges, and research opportunities associated with the application of molecular tools to bathing water regulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-62
Number of pages11
JournalAmbio
Volume45
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Keywords

  • Bathing Water Directive
  • Fecal indicator organism
  • Microbial pollution
  • Public perception
  • Recreational water quality
  • Risk communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology

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