Establishing a Long-Term Trend for Fecal Indicator Bacteria (E. coli)

Establishing a Long-Term Trend for Fecal Indicator Bacteria (E. coli, enterococci) Along the Shoreline of Santa Monica Bay, California

Project Description:

Over the past several decades, state and local governments have spent millions of dollars to improve beach water quality through various projects designed to reduce bacterial contamination in runoff impacting Santa Monica Bay.  Monitoring densities of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) along the Bay’s shoreline daily or weekly by health or sanitation agencies determines if water quality is safe for swimming.  Health agencies assess these data to ensure water quality meets state standards for swimming. Such data are also used by the environmental advocacy group, Heal The Bay, to produce online Beach Report Cards and annual summary reports.  However, long-term trends in FIB data for the overall Bay are not available despite decades of monitoring.  This information is needed to determine if overall shoreline water quality has improved over the past several decades, especially when projects such as year-round low-flow diversions had been implemented in the 1990’s and low impact development strategies are increasing in the Bay’s watersheds.  Establishing a Bay-wide trend using long-term FIB data will provide information to resource and municipal managers on the overall effectiveness of these FIB reduction measurements.  
During Fall 2016 a study was initiated to address the following questions:

  1. How have average densities of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB: E. coli, enterococci) changed in Santa Monica Bay over the past three decades?
  2. Can any trends be correlated with the temporal and spatial implementation of water quality improvement projects implemented throughout the Bay’s watersheds?

A database using information from Heal The Bay and the City of Los Angeles (Bureau of Sanitation, Environmental Monitoring Division) is in the final stages of being compiled.  These data, which span from 1985 to present, are nearly all digitized, entered into a data management system, and are all described in terms of station locations, FIB tests employed, and data quality measures.

Advisor: John Dorsey,
Project Duration: Summer 2017 - Spring 2018

Student Duties:

The student's duties will include (but will not be limited to):

  • Developing a GIS map of all stations used in the study.
  • Describing specific changes in water quality trends in the vicinity of key water quality projects (e.g. the Santa Monica Canyon Low-Flow Diversion Project, the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility).
  • Presenting results of this study in poster and/oral presentations.
  • In addition to writing a thesis, preparing a manuscript.
  • Performing statistical trend analyses for E. coli and enterococci for the entire Bay shoreline, and geographical sections of the Bay (northwestern, central, southern).
  • Testing differences between dry- and wet-weather trends.

Student Background Required:

This project would be ideal for students with a science background, environmental engineering, or both.