News | September 4, 2013

Water Research Foundation-Funded E. Coli Test Helps Ensure Safety Of Drinking Water In Communities Impacted By Floods

As Colorado communities struggle to recover from the recent devastating floods, a chief public health concern is the safety of drinking water supplies. Many water treatment plants and water distribution systems were damaged by the flooding. As a result, some affected area residents did not have access to drinking water or  were advised to boil drinking water to ensure its quality.

Many state health departments, private well operators and others in the water community responsible for assessing the microbial safety of drinking water use the Colilert® test to assess  the presence of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that signals the possible presence of human pathogens. This US EPA-approved method can detect the presence of E. coli in less than 24 hours, unlike various test alternatives. The Colilert test was used exclusively by the US EPA following Hurricane Katrina.

The Colilert test was developed by the Denver based non-profit, Water Research Foundation,

(WRF) in 1991 (Project #90576) in response to the water community’s need for a fast,

dependable and easy method to assess the presence of E. coli in treated drinking water. It is the most widely-used drinking water test in the world, with direct applicability for emergency responders following natural disasters and in those situations where drinking water must be stowed for use in remote locations, such as ships, airplanes, trains and in military operations.

“As has been made abundantly clear in Colorado over the past two weeks, whenever there is a natural disaster, access to safe drinking water becomes an issue of immediate concern,” said Rob Renner, WRF Executive Director. “The Colilert test has proven absolutely instrumental to ensuring the safety of drinking water in impacted areas. The test was developed through our research in close collaboration with our subscribers and is a testament to the water community’s unwavering commitment to providing drinking water that consumers can be assured is safe.”

About the Water Research Foundation
Founded in 1966, the Water Research Foundation is an international, 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that sponsors research to enable water utilities, public health agencies and other professionals to provide safe and affordable water to the public. With nearly 1,000 subscribers who provide water to 80 percent of the U.S. population, WRF has funded and managed more than 1,000 projects. For more information, go to

SOURCE: The Water Research Foundation