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Recreational Health Advisory Guidance for Waterborne Pathogens

Local health departments (LHDs) in Utah have the authority to post a health advisory. LHDs use recreational health thresholds to determine if and when E. coli levels indicate a human health risk. The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) supports LHDs monitoring efforts, and along with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), makes recommendations on the issuance of recreational health advisories based on sampling data and the best available science.

Utah’s recreational health advisory guidance for waterborne pathogens was last updated in 2021 to align with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria.

What triggers a Waterborne Pathogen Advisory?

Utah currently uses E. coli culture-based methods in its monitoring and sampling program. Although most strains of E. coli don’t cause disease, they are good indicators of fecal contamination and can show the potential presence of the fecal pathogens capable of causing gastrointestinal illnesses.

  • Whenever E. coli concentrations are detected at or above 235 MPN per 100 milliliters, a recreational health advisory is recommended.

Latest Guidance Documents

When should an advisory be issued and/or a water body closed?

DHHS and DEQ recommend that LHDs use the table and accompanying decision algorithm when determining the appropriate level of health risk and public health action for a given waterbody.

  • If E. coli concentrations are detected at or above 235 MPN, resampling within 24 hours to confirm the exceedance is recommended.
  • Once an advisory is issued, the Guidance recommends at least two weeks of measurements indicating the hazard has passed before removing the advisory.

Other Waterborne Pathogen Guidance

The recommended standard operating procedure (SOP) for collecting samples for waterborne pathogens are described in DWQ’s Standard Operating Procedure for collection, handling and quantification of total coliform and Escherichia coli samples.

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