A review on microbial contaminants in stormwater runoff and outfalls: Potential health risks and mitigation strategies

Warish Ahmed, Kerry Hamilton, Simon Toze, Stephen Cook, Declan Page

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Demands on global water supplies are increasing in response to the need to provide more food, water, and energy for a rapidly growing population. These water stressors are exacerbated by climate change, as well as the growth and urbanisation of industry and commerce. Consequently, urban water authorities around the globe are exploring alternative water sources to meet ever-increasing demands. These alternative sources are primarily treated sewage, stormwater, and groundwater. Stormwater including roof-harvested rainwater has been considered as an alternative water source for both potable and non-potable uses. One of the most significant issues concerning alternative water reuse is the public health risk associated with chemical and microbial contaminants. Several studies to date have quantified fecal indicators and pathogens in stormwater. Microbial source tracking (MST) approaches have also been used to determine the sources of fecal contamination in stormwater and receiving waters. This review paper summarizes occurrence and concentrations of fecal indicators, pathogens, and MST marker genes in urban stormwater. A section of the review highlights the removal of fecal indicators and pathogens through water sensitive urban design (WSUD) or Best Management Practices (BMPs). We also discuss approaches for assessing and mitigating health risks associated with stormwater, including a summary of existing quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) models for potable and non-potable reuse of stormwater. Finally, the most critical research gaps are identified for formulating risk management strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1304-1321
Number of pages18
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 20 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • BMPS
  • Fecal indicator bacteria
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Stormwater
  • WSUD
  • Zoonotic pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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