Reducing Human Health Risks From Waterborne Diseases

EPA Grant Number: FP917290
Title: Reducing Human Health Risks From Waterborne Diseases
Investigators: Drummond, Jennifer D
Institution: Northwestern University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Water Quality: Hydrogeology and Surface Water


The overall objective of this research project is to improve understanding of the transport of pathogenic organisms in rivers, principally focusing on the deposition and resuspension mechanisms that control pathogen residence times. Knowledge gained will be codified in a model to predict the fate of pathogens in streams. This model will improve management strategies for reducing the human health risks from waterborne diseases.


The research plan consists of laboratory, field and computational work on pathogen transport. An integrated modeling framework will be developed for pathogen dynamics in rivers. The model will account for a range of residence times within or near the streambed, including deposition and resuspension events. Laboratory experiments will be conducted to evaluate processes that are hypothesized to control pathogen deposition and resuspension, and field experiments will be conducted to evaluate and assess the applicability of the modeling framework in predicting the migration of pathogens in small rivers.

Expected Results:

An advanced model that can predict how pathogenic organisms will impact downstream environments will improve management of waterborne disease transmission. By combining laboratory and field experiments with modeling, observed pathogen transport can be directly incorporated into the model. The model will provide an improved tool for evaluating risks of waterborne disease transmission under natural flow variations and modified flow regimes associated with either climate change or stream regulation/ restoration. This tool then can be used to design improved management practices for reducing downstream transport of pathogens particularly with stream flow variations and flood events.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

Pathogens enter small streams in a variety of ways, notably including shallow groundwater discharge, overland flow and direct inputs from animals. This project will improve assessment of the transport of pathogenic organisms in rivers, thereby facilitating evaluation of the risks of waterborne disease transmission. It will help to reduce human health risks by supporting the development of improved management practices for reducing waterborne disease transmission.

Supplemental Keywords:

waterborne diseases, pathogen, pathogenic organisms, contaminant transport, modeling, rivers

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final