EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modelling the fate and transport of microbial pathogens during floods and rainfall events in an alluvial wetland area supported by microbial source tracking

Julia Derx1,9, Rita Linke9,4, Katalin Demeter9,4, Jürgen Komma1, Silvia Cervero-Aragó9,2, Jack Schijven6,7, Regina Sommer9,2, Julia Walochnik8, Alexander K. T. Kirschner9,2,3, Gabrielle Stalder5, Alfred Paul Blaschke1,9, and Andreas H. Farnleitner9,4,3
Julia Derx et al.
  • 1TU Wien, Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, Karlsplatz 13, Vienna, Austria (
  • 2Medical University of Vienna, Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology, Kinderspitalgasse 15, A-1090 Vienna, Austria
  • 3Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Microbiology, Division Water Quality and Health, Dr.-Karl-Dorrek-Straße 30, A-3500 Krems an der Donau, Austria
  • 4Research Group Environmental Microbiology and Molecular Diagnostics E166/5/3, Institute of Chemical, Environmental and Bioscience Engineering, TU Wien, Gumpendorferstraße 1a, A-1060 Vienna, Austria
  • 5Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria
  • 6Department of Statistics, Informatics and Modelling, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), PO Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven,The Netherlands
  • 7Faculty of Geosciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • 8Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Austria
  • 9Interuniversity Cooperation Centre Water & Health (

Alluvial wetlands are important natural habitats and contain valuable drinking water resources. The transport of pathogens via the inflows of river water or the release and runoff from animal faecal deposits into the backwater bodies can pose health risks. The aim of this study was to develop a combined modelling approach for predicting the concentrations and loads of protozoan reference pathogens during floods and rainfall events in an alluvial wetland river. The probabilistic-deterministic model QMRAcatch (v 1.1 python backwater) was newly adapted to account for short-time variations in the flow and microbial transport of alluvial wetlands. The wetland discharge rates, together with the inundated volumes and areas served as input to the model. The latter were determined by means of regression analysis based on results of a 2D hydrodynamic flow model during a flood event. To evaluate the model performance of QMRAcatch, we used concentrations of human, ruminant, pig and bird associated microbial faecal source tracking (MST) markers and E. coli measured in the Danube and in the wetland river from 2010 to 2015. The microbial die-off / degradation was identified to be the most relevant optimization parameter. To obtain this parameter, we conducted a literature survey on the degradation of MST markers in water environments, determined confidence limits of the temperature-dependent rate coefficients, and adjusted them within these limits during the optimization. Scenarios of the different transport pathways of Cryptosporidium and Giardia into the wetland bodies during floods and rainfall events were then simulated. The scenarios showed that the highest loads of Cryptosporidium and Giardia were transported via the main river into the wetland during high flows, followed by the rainfall-induced release from animal faecal deposits, and the resuspension in flooded areas. The combined modelling approach is useful to support the drinking water safety management of alluvial wetlands.

Funding source: This work was supported by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) [grant number ESR17-070] and by the European Union and Vienna Water [programme number LE07-13, project name ‘Groundwater Resource Systems Vienna’].

How to cite: Derx, J., Linke, R., Demeter, K., Komma, J., Cervero-Aragó, S., Schijven, J., Sommer, R., Walochnik, J., Kirschner, A. K. T., Stalder, G., Blaschke, A. P., and Farnleitner, A. H.: Modelling the fate and transport of microbial pathogens during floods and rainfall events in an alluvial wetland area supported by microbial source tracking, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4294,, 2021.

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