From Groundwater to Drinking Water – Current Approaches for Microbial Monitoring and Risk Assessment in Porous Aquifers

Julia Derx, Rita Linke, Domenico Savio, Monica Emelko, Philip Schmidt, Jack Schijven, Liping Pang, Regina Sommer, Margaret Stevenson, Harold Van Den Berg, Saskia Rutjes, Andreas H. Farnleitner, Alfred Paul Blaschke

Research output: Contribution to book/report/conference proceedingChapter in book/report


Groundwater and riverbank filtrate are valuable resources for drinking water production. The presence of pathogens in the environment poses a threat to drinking water quality and human health. This chapter summarizes the current approaches for evaluating pathogen fate and transport in the environment, their removal during subsurface transport in porous aquifers and the needed infection protection to achieve safe drinking water. The focus is on whole-system concepts as proposed by the (WHO, 2017) considering potential fecal sources in water resource catchments towards the point of use. We explain how microbial pathogens move through groundwater and give an overview about the traditional and novel monitoring techniques to investigate fecal contamination in water. Modelling techniques are presented for estimating the required pathogen treatment reduction by riverbank filtration or subsequent disinfection steps to achieve safe drinking water or safe setback distances. The monitoring and modelling techniques include monitoring of natural and artificial fecal indicators and host-associated genetic fecal markers (microbial source tracking (MST) markers) in surface water and groundwater as surrogates for studying pathogen treatment and transport characteristics, experimental tracer tests, analytical and numerical transport models and quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA). We discuss the strengths and limitations of the presented approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Inland Waters
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780128220412
ISBN (Print)9780128191668
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2022


  • Fecal indicators
  • Genetic microbial source tracking (MST) markers
  • Hydrological monitoring
  • Microbial pathogen transport models in groundwater
  • Microbial transport models in surface water
  • Observational data uncertainty
  • Pathogen surrogates
  • QMRA
  • Reference pathogens
  • Riverbank filtration
  • Supporting molecular biological diagnostics
  • Tracer test
  • Water safety plan (WSP)
  • Water supply

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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