Bacteria are found in virtually all streams and lakes around the world, and Kansas City urban streams are no exception. However, when the types of pathogenic bacteria that can cause sickness in humans are present at certain levels, there is cause for significant concern. There are many microorganisms which may cause illness in humans. But because the practice of sampling streams and lakes for all bacteria is relatively cost prohibitive, it has become common instead to look for an “indicator” bacteria named Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli). E coli is known to occur in the digestive tract of warm-blooded animals (humans, dogs, cows, etc.) and when it is found in water samples, it can indicate the presence of other illness causing bacteria.

Water samples in this survey were collected from single locations at each urban stream monitoring site and have been analyzed for E. coli using EPA Method 1604. This method determines the presence or absence of total coliforms and E. coli in surface water using a selective and differential membrane filtration (MF) medium, m-ColiBlue24 broth. Enumeration of total coliform and E. coli may also be done with proper dilutions of sample. This method can detect the presence or absence of both total coliforms and E. coli simultaneously within 24 hours and without the need for a confirmation step. A measured volume of sample is filtered through a 47 mm membrane filter. The filter is placed in a Petri plate containing an absorbent pad saturated with m-ColiBlue24 broth. The filter is incubated at approximately 35 °C for 24 hours. If coliform bacteria are present in the sample, they will appear as red colonies; if E. coli bacteria are present, they will appear as blue colonies.

Samples in this survey were collected for purposes of comparing bacteria levels among streams. Results are intended to aid in understanding the variability of those levels, and not for determining compliance with water quality standards. For more information about bacteria, [click here.]

For More Information

To learn more about bacteria click here. For the results of bacteria sampling conducted during 2010 and 2011 click on one of the following streams: Line Creek, Shoal Creek, Blue River, Tomahawk Creek, Little Blue River, Coffee Creek, Mill Creek, Brush Creek, and Turkey Creek.

In Kansas, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is responsible for establishing and enforcing water quality criteria, including bacteria, for streams in the state. These criteria vary, depending on the type of stream and its uses. KDHE has a nice white paper describing bacteria and water quality here.

In Missouri, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources establishes water quality criteria, for bacteria again based on the type of stream. This criteria is found in their Code of State Regulations found here.

Bacteria results from previous years (once per year) may be found by accessing the metro area map, click on the monitoring station and then clicking on water.