Fluorescence spectroscopy as a tool for determining microbial quality in potable water applications

Susan Cumberland, Jonathan Bridgeman, Andy Baker, Mark Sterling, David Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Building on previous work where fluorescence spectroscopy has been used to detect sewage in rivers, a portable LED spectrophotometer was used for the first time to establish bacterial numbers in a range of water samples. A mixed-method approach was used with standard bacteria enumeration techniques on diluted river water and sewage works final effluent using a number of diluents (Ringer's solution, tap water and potable spring water). Fluorescence from uncultured dilutions was detected at a 280 nm excitation/360 nm emission wavelength (corresponding to the region of tryptophan and indole fluorescence) and compared with bacteria numbers on the same cultured sample. Good correlations were obtained for total coliforms, E. coli and heterotrophic bacteria with the portable LED spectrophotometer (R2 = 0.78, 0.72 and 0.81 respectively). The results indicate that the portable spectrophotometer could be applied to establish the quality of drinking water in areas of poor sanitation that are subject to faecal contamination, where infrastructure failure has occurred in the supply of clean drinking water. This would be particularly useful where laboratory facilities are not at hand.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-93
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Technology
Issue number4-6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2011


  • Bacterial Typing Techniques
  • Drinking Water
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Pollutants


Dive into the research topics of 'Fluorescence spectroscopy as a tool for determining microbial quality in potable water applications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this