The microbiome of urban waters – Technical Summary
With more than half of the world’s population living in or near urban centers, urban waters are an important interaction point between humans and the natural environment. Urban waterways include sewers, storm drains, and urban lakes and streams whose microbiome can be an indicator of pollutants, human health risks, and any other ways in which humans are affecting the natural environment. These indicators include many different microbes. The presence of certain microbes, such as human pathogens, can indicate human health risks. The human microbiome is used as a tracer of fecal contamination in these waterways. Other microbes can indicate what types of pollution might be present, such as microbes associated with specific chemicals or human waste.
Microbes accumulate in urban waterways through runoff from soils and the built environment, release of stormwater or sewage into another waterway, and transfer from humans. As these urban waterways combine with natural waters, such as streams and oceans, non-indigenous microbes are released into those environments. These non-indigenous microbes can alter the environmental conditions, such as the natural food web, and have a potentially hazardous impact on the natural environment.
Citation: MacLellen, Sandra, J. Fisher, and R. Newton. The microbiome of urban waters. 2015. International Microbiology. 18:141-149.