Pathogen performance testing of a natural swimming pool using a cocktail of microbiological surrogates and QMRA-derived management goals

David C. Shoults, Qiaozhi Li, Susan Petterson, Sydney P. Rudko, Lena Dlusskaya, Mats Leifels, Candis Scott, Cyndi Schlosser, Nicholas J. Ashbolt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

3 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades, natural swimming pools (NSPs) have gained popularity in Europe, especially in Germany and Austria. NSPs differ from swimming pools in that they utilize biological treatment processes based on wetland processes with no disinfection residual. However, data are missing on the specific log-reduction performance of NSPs to address enteric virus, bacteria, and parasitic protozoa removal considered necessary to meet the North American risk-based benchmark (,35 illnesses per 1,000 swimming events) set by the USEPA for voluntary swimming. In this study, we examined Canada's first NSP at Borden Park, Edmonton, Canada, to address the following three questions: (1) Given normal faecal shedding rates by bathers, what is the total log reduction (TLR) theoretically needed to meet the EPA benchmark? (2) what is the in-situ performance of the NSP based on spiking suitable microbial surrogates (MS2 coliphage, Enterococcus faecalis, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae [Baker's yeast])? and (3) how much time is required to reach acceptable bather risk levels under different representative volume-turnover rates? A reverse-quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) revealed that of the four reference pathogens selected (Norovirus, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia), only Norovirus was estimated to exceed the risk benchmark at the 50th, 75th, and 95th percentiles, while Campylobacter was the only other reference pathogen to exceed at the 95th percentile. Log-reduction values (LRVs) were similar to previous reports for bacterial indicators, and novel LRVs were estimated for the other two surrogates. A key finding was that more than 24 h treatment time would be necessary to provide acceptable bather protection following heavy bather use (378 bathers/day for main pool and 26 bathers/day for children's pool), due to the mixing dynamics of the treated water diluting out possible residual pool faecal contamination. The theoretical maximum number of people in the pool per day to be below USEPA's 35 gastro cases in 1,000 swimming events was 113, 47, and 8, at the 50th, 75th, and 95th percentiles. Further, the use of ultra-violet disinfection to the pool return flow had little effect on reducing the treatment time required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-641
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Water and Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological treatment
  • Natural swimming pool
  • Norovirus
  • QMRA
  • Recreational water
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Risk Assessment
  • Humans
  • Swimming Pools
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Goals
  • Child
  • Water Microbiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Infectious Diseases


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