Total Coliforms are a large group of different types of bacteria, that share several characteristics. They are commonly found in the environment, such as in soil, and in the intestines of animals, including humans. The main sources of total coliforms in water is contamination from human and animal waste.
Total Coliforms are used as an indicator of the cleanliness of a water source. Although total coliform bacteria themselves do not necessarily cause harmful illnesses, their presence indicates that water will likely contain other more harmful pathogens.
Total coliforms are present in a variety of applications. Below we outline where you may find total coliforms and why they should be monitored.
In drinking water total coliform testing can be used to monitor the effectiveness of the disinfection processes. Coliforms present in drinking water indicate there could be pathogens present in the water that cause serious diseases.
Total coliforms can enter the water through environmental contamination such as waste from mammals or birds, agricultural runoff, and untreated human sewage.
The WHO state that total coliform bacteria must not be detectable in any 100 mL sample of water. Similarly, the DWI state total coliform bacteria should not be detectable in any 100 mL sample of water taken at consumers’ taps.
The above guidelines for total coliforms in drinking water do not apply in emergency response situations. In these situations, total coliform tests are used to measure changes in water quality. NGO guidelines suggest that 10–100 CFU per 100 mL is tolerable for short periods of times, but above 100 CFU per 100 mL the risk to life is too great.
Palintest has a long history of working in the development sector; our expertise and global logistics network means we are always ready to provide emergency response support. To find out more about how we can support in emergency situations click here.
In pool and spa applications total coliforms present in the water indicate that there could be pathogens present in the water which could cause serious disease. Coliform bacteria can enter a swimming pool through multiple contamination routes, examples include contaminated soil, dust, rainwater, sewage or human or animal waste.
Tests for total coliforms in pools and spas should be carried out monthly. PWTAG state that Total Coliforms and E. coli must be absent in any 100 mL sample. For more information on which parameters you should be testing in your pool and spa download our pool chemistry guide.
Fresh produce can be contaminated with pathogens during growth, harvest, transportation, and handling. To prevent any illness, fresh produce is usually disinfected prior to it reaching the end consumer. Coliform testing can be used to monitor the efficiency of the wash process.
The FDA state that if any coliform organisms are detected in weekly total coliform testing of finished bottled water products, bottlers are required to conduct follow-up testing to determine whether any of the coliform organisms are E. coli.
In natural bathing waters, the total coliform levels need to be monitored to ensure that the water is safe for bathing. The safe acceptable limits are different depending on the area, and whether the water is coastal or inland.
The EU guidelines for inland waters state that the total coliform count must be less than 400 CFU per 100 mL to be rated as excellent for bathing, and E. coli should be less than 2500 CFU per 100 mL. For Canada, the guidelines for TC are less than 200 CFU per 100 mL.
In emergency situations, such as natural disasters, water quality must be rapidly assessed to determine water safety. As the renowned partners for emergency response water testing our WagtechTM kits use microbiological analysis to rapidly detect the presence of total coliforms in water. The kits include a Wagtech incubator which has been specifically designed for microbiological testing in challenging environments.
With a high sample capacity of 20 petri dishes, up to five full cycles per battery charge, and mains and battery power options; the incubator enables you to test large volumes of samples in the field. To further increase incubation capacity choose a Wagtech Potalab or Wagtech Potatest 2 which includes two incubators. View the full range of Wagtech kits here.
ColitagTM is the simplest and most flexible method for detecting Total Coliforms and E. Coli, it is expertly designed for microbiological water quality testing – with USEPA-approval. Results are available in as little as 16 hours, Colitag™ ensures that effective water quality decisions can be made quickly to safeguard health. Find out more about ColitagTM here.
CFU stands for colony-forming unit, it is a measure of viable bacterial or fungus cells. Results are given as colony-forming units per millilitre (CFU per mL) for liquids.