Application of Multivariate Statistical Methodology to Model Factors Influencing Fate and Transport of Fecal Pollution in Surface Waters

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The increasing number of polluted watersheds and water bodies with total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) has resulted in increased research to find methods that effectively and universally identify fecal pollution sources. A fundamental requirement to identify such methods is understanding the microbial and chemical processes that influence fate and transport of fecal indicators from various sources to receiving streams. Using the Watauga River watershed in northeast Tennessee as a model to better understand these processes, multivariate statistical analyses were conducted on data collected from four creeks that have or are expected to have pathogen TMDLs. The application of canonical correlation and discriminant analyses revealed spatial and temporal variability in the microbial and chemical parameters influencing water quality, suggesting that these creeks differ in terms of the nature and extent of fecal pollution. The identification of creeks within a watershed that have similar sources of fecal pollution using this data analysis approach could change prioritization of best management practices selection and placement. Furthermore, this suggests that TMDL development may require multiyear and multisite data using a targeted sampling approach instead of a 30-d geometric mean in large, complex watersheds. This technique may facilitate the choice between watershed TMDLs and single segment or stream TMDLs.