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AgriLife Research 'genetically fingerprinting' E. coli from watersheds
Date:8/1/2011

are measured by the number of colonies cultured from a given volume of water. Here, the E. coli colonies show up as maroon spots because of a special growth medium. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

Identifying the exact sources of contamination will allow the formation of a watershed protection plan that is fair, balanced and effective, Wolfe said.

The Lampasas River originates about 70 miles west of Waco and flows southeast for 75 miles, passing through Lampasas, Burnet and Bell counties. Land use within the watershed includes grazing for beef cattle and the production of hay, wheat, oats, sorghum, corn, cotton, peanuts and pecans, Wolfe said.

The Leon River has three primary forks that meet near Eastland, which is about 110 miles west of Fort Worth. From Eastland, the river runs about 185 miles south where it and the Lampasas River join with the Salado Creek near Belton in northern Bell County to form the Little River. Like the Lampasas, the Leon runs primarily through rural farmlands. But there is also considerable forestland and a significant amount of dairy production in the northern part of the watershed, he said.

Parts of both the Lampasas and Leon watersheds have been listed by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality as "impaired" for recreational use, Wolfe said.

"By impaired, it is meant that coliform bacterium levels exceed state and federal established criteria," Wolfe said. "Though these organisms are generally not harmful to human health, they may indicate the presence of pathogens that can cause disease or gastrointestinal illnesses."

The collection of water samples must be meticulous and meet stringent EPA procedural and documentation guidelines, Wolfe noted. When he and Owen collect and label water samples, they must also measure stream flow, water pH, dissolved oxygen and specific conductivity. And there is a strict time deadline, measured in hours, fr
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Contact: Dr. June Wolfe
jwolfe@brc.tamus.edu
254-774-6016
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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