Monitoring marine recreational water quality using multiple microbial indicators in an urban tropical environment

Tomoyuki Shibata, Helena M. Solo-Gabriele, Lora E. Fleming, Samir Elmir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


The microbial water quality at two beaches, Hobie Beach and Crandon Beach, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, USA was measured using multiple microbial indicators for the purpose of evaluating correlations between microbes and for identifying possible sources of contamination. The indicator microbes chosen for this study (enterococci, Escherichia coli, fecal coliform, total coliform and C. perfringens) were evaluated through three different sampling efforts. These efforts included daily measurements at four locations during a wet season month and a dry season month, spatially intensive water sampling during low- and high-tide periods, and a sand sampling effort. Results indicated that concentrations did not vary in a consistent fashion between one indicator microbe and another. Daily water quality frequently exceeded guideline levels at Hobie Beach for all indicator microbes except for fecal coliform, which never exceeded the guideline. Except for total coliform, the concentrations of microbes did not change significantly between seasons in spite of the fact that the physical-chemical parameters (rainfall, temperature, pH, and salinity) changed significantly between the two monitoring periods. Spatially intense water sampling showed that the concentrations of microbes were significantly different with distance from the shoreline. The highest concentrations were observed at shoreline points and decreased at offshore points. Furthermore, the highest concentrations of indicator microbe concentrations were observed at high tide, when the wash zone area of the beach was submerged. Beach sands within the wash zone tested positive for all indicator microbes, thereby suggesting that this zone may serve as the source of indicator microbes. Ultimate sources of indicator microbes to this zone may include humans, animals, and possibly the survival and regrowth of indicator microbes due to the unique environmental conditions found within this zone. Overall, the results of this study indicated that the concentrations of indicator microbes do not necessarily correlate with one another. Exceedence of water quality guidelines, and thus the frequency of beach advisories, depends upon which indicator microbe is chosen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3119-3131
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Coliform
  • Indicator microbes
  • Marine recreational water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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