Contribution of sand-associated enterococci to dry weather water quality. Academic Article uri icon


  • Culturable enterococci and a suite of environmental variables were collected during a predominantly dry summer at a beach impacted by nonpoint source pollution. These data were used to evaluate sands as a source of enterococci to nearshore waters, and to assess the relationship between environmental factors and dry-weather enterococci abundance. Best-fit multiple linear regressions used environmental variables to explain more than half of the observed variation in enterococci in water and dry sands. Notably, during dry weather the abundance of enterococci in dry sands at the mean high-tide line was significantly positively related to sand moisture content (ranging from <1-4%), and the daily mean ENT in water could be predicted by a linear regression with turbidity alone. Temperature was also positively correlated with ENT abundance in this study, which may indicate an important role of seasonal warming in temperate regions. Inundation by spring tides was the primary rewetting mechanism that sustained culturable enterococci populations in high-tide sands. Tidal forcing modulated the abundance of enterococci in the water, as both turbidity and enterococci were elevated during ebb and flood tides. The probability of samples violating the single-sample maximum was significantly greater when collected during periods with increased tidal range: spring ebb and flood tides. Tidal forcing also affected groundwater mixing zones, mobilizing enterococci from sand to water. These data show that routine monitoring programs using discrete enterococci measurements may be biased by tides and other environmental factors, providing a flawed basis for beach closure decisions.

publication date

  • January 6, 2015