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A Beginner's Guide to Water Management—Bacteria


This 44-page booklet starts with a brief tutorial on the presence of bacteria in Florida lakes, and the aquatic environment in general, and then quickly turns to the subject that lake users are most interested in: possible sources of bacterial contamination and how to test for it. The discussion includes a comparison of the effectiveness of wastewater treatment plants versus septic tanks. Also, indicators used for detecting bacterial contamination are explained, along with basic laboratory methods. Lastly, an easy 4-step process is provided for tracking down bacterial contamination in a waterbody. Laboratory suppliers are listed at the end for individuals or groups interested in doing their own bacterial sampling. Chapters:

Part 1 A Brief Lesson On Bacteria

Part 2 Sources of Bacterial Contamination

Part 3 The Wastewater Treatment Debate

Part 4 Indicators Used to Detect Bacterial Contamination

Part 5 Laboratory Methods for Counting

Part 6 Criteria for Assessing Coliform Contamination in Florida Waters

Part 7 A Four Step Process for Identifying and Locating Bacterial Contamination

Keywords: amoebas, bacteria, bacterial contamination, coliform, colony forming units, CFUs, counts, contamination, cyanobacteria, decomposers, domestic animal waste, E. coli, Enterobacteriaceae, Enterococcus, Escherichia coli, false positives, fecal coliforms, human waste, indicator organisms, inoculated, lactose fermentation, membrane, filtration, most probable number (MPN), naturally occurring contamination, pathogenic, pathogens, plate counts, presence/absence, protozoa, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, septic tanks, taxonomy, total coliforms, viruses, wastewater treatment plant, wildlife

Note: Circular 106 is available in Portable Document Format (pdf) only. It can be obtained as a single PDF file by clicking on the "Printer Friendly Version" link above (file size = 1.1 MB).

Photos used with permission as credited.

Publication #CIR106

Release Date:November 17, 2020

Reviewed At:October 25, 2022

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Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document, CIR106, is the sixth of a series of information circulars dedicated to familiarizing citizens with the language and techniques used by those involved in water management. February 2003 © 1 st Edition. Reviewed by Mark Hoyer January 2017. Printed copies are available through the UF/IFAS Extension website and also from the Florida LAKEWATCH website Readability grade level: 12.0

About the Authors

Florida LAKEWATCH (FLW) is a research and public outreach program coordinated within the UF/IFAS Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. FLW facilitates public involvement in the management of Florida waters by training citizen volunteers to collect monthly water samples, algae samples, and water clarity data from a lake or waterbody of their choice. Over time, this information is used to document nutrient levels and/or to predict biological productivity. For more information about the program or to obtain FLW data, call 1-800-LAKEWATch (1-800-525-3928) or view the website at


  • Mark Hoyer