Joint Danube Survey – the biggest river expedition worldwide: Microbiologists of the Unit for Water Hygiene investigate the microbial-faecal pollution patterns along the Danube
(Vienna, 3-09-2013) The international river expedition „Joint Danube Surey“, that is currently taking place at the Danube, lasting until the end of September, when the expedition ships reach the Danube delta. Microbiologists from the Unit for Water Hygiene, together with colleagues from the TU Vienna (collaborating within the Interuniversity Cooperation Centre Water & Health), are investigating the microbial-faecal pollution along the whole Danube. First measurements in 2001 and 2007 have detected massive pollution at certain stretches and “hot-spots”
The expedition has started on August 13 in Regensburg /Germany) and will reach the Black Sea after 2375 km on Sept. 26. At a total of 68 sampling sites scientists from all nations of the Danube River Basin and of various fields will investigate the quality of water, sediments and suspended solids. A substantial part of the samples will be analysed on board of two ships. This is the world´s biggest river excursion that is organized by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR).
“Despite the implementation of state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plants wastewater influenced rivers exhibit a high degree of microbial-faecal pollution, even in industrialized countries. This imposes a serious threat to all kinds of water use, like drinking water production” says microbiology team leader Alexander Kirschner from the Unit for Water Hygiene at the Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology. In the frame of the investigations in 2001 and 2007, however, the influence of heavily polluted tributaries or sewage, on the water quality in the middle of the Danube was low or much attenuated.
Kirschner: „This suggests that the mixing of heavily polluted water masses is a very slow process and that degradation of microbial faecal pollution may have occurred before the polluted water has reached the middle of the large river or the other river bank”. This issue is now addressed within the frame of the 3rd Joint Danube Survey in detail, with financial support from FWF, ICPDR, and the Austrian Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Environment.
„Our aim is, to create an abundant data set of environmental parameters which allows us to draw a comprehensive picture of the microbial-faecal pollution patterns along the Danube and to formulate general principles and concepts explaining these patterns along large rivers in general”.
The new insights will enable the development of new prediction models of microbial faecal pollution in large rivers. This will be of great importance for future water management at the large scale of a whole river across national borders.
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