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Journal of Water and Health Vol 6 No 1 pp 83–98 © IWA Publishing 2008 doi:10.2166/wh.2007.020

Microbial groundwater quality and its health implications for a border-strip irrigated dairy farm catchment, South Island, New Zealand

Murray Close, Rod Dann, Andrew Ball, Marion Savill, Ruth Pirie and Zella Smith

Institute of Environmental Science and Research, PO Box 29 181, Christchurch, New Zealand Tel.: +64 3 351 6019 Fax: +64 3 351 0010 murray.close@esr.cri.nz
Institute of Environmental Science and Research, PO Box 50 348, Porirua, New Zealand
Environment Canterbury, PO Box 550, Timaru, New Zealand


ABSTRACT

Intensification of dairying on irrigated pastures has led to concern over the microbial quality of shallow groundwater used for drinking purposes. The effects of intensive dairying and border-strip irrigation on the leaching of E. coli and Campylobacter to shallow groundwater were assessed over a three-year period in the Waikakahi catchment, Canterbury, New Zealand. Well selection excluded other sources of contamination so that the effect of dairying with border-strip irrigation could be assessed. Groundwater samples (135) were collected, mostly during the irrigation season, with E. coli being detected in 75% of samples. Campylobacter was identified in 16 samples (12%). A risk assessment of drinking water with these levels of Campylobacter was undertaken. A probability distribution was fitted to the observed Campylobacter data and the @RISK modeling software was used, assuming a dose response relationship for Campylobacter and consumption of 1 L/day of water. The probability of infection on any given day in the study area was estimated at 0.50% to 0.76%, giving an estimated probability of infection during the irrigation season of 60% to 75%. An epidemiological assessment of the Canterbury region comparing areas encompassing dairy within major irrigation schemes (~55% border-strip irrigation) to two control groups was undertaken. Control group 1 (CG1) encompasses areas of dairying without major irrigation schemes, and a second larger control group (CG2) comprises the rest of the Canterbury region. Comparisons of the subject group to control groups indicated that there was a statistically significant increase in age-standardised rates of campylobacteriosis (CG1 Relative Risk (RR)=1.51 (95% CI = 1.31-1.75); CG2 RR = 1.51 (1.33–1.72)); cryptosporidiosis (CG1 RR = 2.08 (1.55–2.79); CG2 RR = 5.33 (4.12–6.90)); and salmonellosis (CG2 RR = 2.05 (1.55–2.71)).

Keywords: Campylobacter; epidemiology; E. coli; groundwater; irrigation; risk assessment


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