Microbial properties of harvested rainwater were assessed at two study sites at Newcastle on the east coast of Australia. The investigation monitored daily counts of heterotrophic bacteria (HPC), total coliforms and E. coli during a mid-winter month (July). Immediately after a major rainfall event, increases in bacterial loads were observed at both sites, followed by gradual reductions in numbers to prior baseline levels within 7 days. Baseline HPC levels ranged from 500–1000 cfu/mL for the sites evaluated, and the loads following rain peaked at 3590–6690 cfu/mL. Baseline levels of total coliforms ranged from 0–100 cfu/100 mL and peaked at 480–1200 cfu/100 mL following rain. At Site 1, there was no evidence of E. coli loading associated with the rain events assessed, and Site 2 had no detectable E.coli colonies at baseline, with a peak load of 17 cfu/100 mL following rain which again diminished to baseline levels. It was concluded that rainfall events contributed to the bacterial load in rainwater storage systems, but processes within the rainwater storage ensured these incoming loads were not sustained.
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