Estimating Health Risks Attributable To Small Water Supplies Using QMRA

EPA Grant Number: FP917782
Title: Estimating Health Risks Attributable To Small Water Supplies Using QMRA
Investigators: Bivins, Aaron William
Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018
Project Amount: $132,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


A multiplex nucleic acid assay (Luminex xTAG GPP) typically used on stool samples to diagnose infection with gastrointestinal pathogens will be validated for use on concentrated drinking water samples. The multiplex assay results will be used as input for a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model to estimate the health risks associated with small rural drinking water supplies and inform risk management strategies. Lastly, uncertainty and sensitivity will analyzed in order to develop a simplified QMRA model capable of estimating health risks in piped water supplies.


The proposed research makes use of a previous cross-sectional study of water quality in rural water supplies in Alabama during which 360 high volume water samples were collected. These samples will be analyzed using the Luminex xTAG GPP, which uses RT-PCR and multiplex ELISA to simultaneously test for the presence of 15 gastrointestinal pathogens. The xTAG GPP assay will be verified for use on concentrated water samples by comparing results to traditional pathogen detection methods including MS2 by culture, and Giardia and Cryptosporidium by PCR. The xTAG GPP results, published dose-response models, water consumption data, and Mote Carlo techniques will be used to develop a QMRA model to estimate the health risks attributable to the consumption of drinking water from each of the rural Alabama water supplies. The uncertainty and sensitivity of each QMRA model will be evaluated using Crystal Ball software and the models will be reduced to their simplest form that is still capable of making reasonable estimates of risk.

Expected Results:

The verification of the xTAG GPP for concentrated water samples will provide a new method for rapid, simultaneous detection of a suite of gastrointestinal pathogens in drinking water. The QMRA models will use a robust microbiological characterization of small rural water supplies to estimate the risk of infection with waterborne pathogens attributable to consuming water from similar supplies in the United States. The uncertainty and sensitivity assessment will yield a simplified and accessible framework for microbial risk assessments of piped water supplies.

Supplemental Keywords:

Risk assessment, QMRA, drinking water, small water supplies, waterborne disease, water quality

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016
  • 2017
  • Final