Bacteriological quality of runoff water from pastureland
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Runoff from a cow-calf pasture in eastern Nebraska was monitored for total coliforms (TC), fecal coliforms (FC), and fecal streptococci (FS) during 1976, 1977, and 1978. Bacteriological counts in runoff from both grazed and ungrazed areas generally exceeded recommended water quality standards. The FC group was the best indicator group of the imnpact of grazing. Rainfall runoff from the grazed area contained 5 to 10 times more FC than runoff from the fenced, ungrazed area. There was little difference in TC counts between the two areas, but FS counts were higher in runoff from the ungrazed area and reflected the contributions from wildlife. Recommended bacteriological water quality standards, developed for point source inputs, may be inappropriate for characterizing nonpoint source pollution from pasture runoff. The FC/FS ratio in pasture runoff was useful in identifying the relative contributions of cattle and wildlife. Ratios below 0.05 were indicative of wildlife sources and ratios above 0.1 were characteristic of grazing cattle. Occasions when the FC/FS ratio of diluted cattle waste exceeded one resulted from differential aftergrowth and die-off between FC and FS. The FC/FS ratio and percentage of Streptococcus bovis in pasture runoff are useful indicators for evaluating the effectiveness of livestock management practices for minimizng bacterial contamination of surface water. The importance of choice of medium for the enumeration of FS in runoff derived from cattle wastes is discussed.