Geography ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-13-2018


Microbial contamination affects many water bodies in the United States and pathogens associated with contamination pose a threat to human health. While the nation’s lakes, streams and rivers have been monitored for decades, many still do not meet the requirements of the 1972 Clean Water Act. Due to the number of pathogens that occur in water bodies, it is not feasible to directly monitor all of them. Instead of testing for a plethora of pathogens, it is standard practice for water divisions to monitor fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) as a proxy to determine water quality. There are significant flaws, however, with this approach, including the poor correlation of FIB with many significant pathogens and, most importantly, the inability to identify the sources of contamination.

The City of Santa Fe Water Division monitors FIB in the Santa Fe River but cannot determine the source of contamination when tests come back positive. In this thesis, microbial source tracking is used on water samples from five different locations along the river to provide insight into the quality of the Santa Fe River water and determine the sources of contamination. Water from each site was tested for human, dog, bird, beaver and/or ruminant genetic markers. FIB were detected at all sites at either low, medium or high concentrations. The information from this thesis aids the Santa Fe Water Division in complying with the United States Environmental Protection Agency stormwater discharge permit requirements by informing their best management practices.

Degree Name


Department Name


Level of Degree


First Committee Member (Chair)

Chris Duvall

Second Committee Member

Maria Lane

Third Committee Member

Benjamin Warner

Document Type



water quality, microbial source tracking, Santa Fe