Faecal Indicator Organisms (FIOs) are bacteria that live in the guts of warm blooded animals. They are currently defined by international legislation as E. coli and intestinal enterococci and are detected by using standard microbiological techniques.
What is the significance of FIOs in water?
- They indicate the presence of faecal material, which means that there may be micro-organisms in the water that can cause disease.
- A major cause of water quality issues is associated with the transfer of animal wastes to surface waters.
- The measurement of FIOs provides an idea of the amount of animal waste being received by surface waters, which enables identification of the impact and subsequent mitigation of pollution from this source.
What are the main pathways and sources of FIOs?
- Farm tracks
- Livestock in streams
- Grazing livestock
- Spreading organic resources
- Farmyard runoff
- Septic tanks
What can I do to reduce the risk of FIOs on my farm?
- Excluding livestock from water courses
- Fencing Improvements to farmyard infrastructure – separation of clean/dirty water
- Targeted manure management advice
- Water quality
- Industries dependant on clean water
- Rural economies
- Public health
FIOs and the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD); a bit of background
The WFD is legislation designed to protect and improve the quality of water bodies throughout Europe. The revised Bathing Waters Directive (2006/7/EC) (which comes into effect in 2015), has been incorporated into the WFD, introducing stringent microbial parameters determined as concentrations of FIOs for both inland and coastal waters. This introduces the risk that more water bodies will fail due to microbial pollution, making it even more important that we reduce quantities of FIOs in surface waters.
Source: Dr. Chris Hodgson from North Wyke Research