With the widespread use of reclaimed water all over the world, there is a clear need to optimise its management in order to guarantee water safety. Model microorganisms (with either indicator or index function) are commonly used to assess risks related to the presence of enteric pathogens in water. Samples from five water reclamation plants located in Northeastern Spain were analysed to validate the use of three model microorganisms (Escherichia coli, somatic coliphages and spores of sulphite-reducing clostridia) as surrogates of Cryptosporidium total or infectious oocysts (TOO and IOO, respectively) in reclaimed water. Probability plots, simple and multiple linear regression and discriminant analyses were performed to assess their relationships. Results show that the detection of E. coli alone is not useful to model either the behaviour or concentrations of Cryptosporidium. However, discriminant analyses showed a high rate of correctly classified samples (91.9%) when E. coli and somatic coliphages data were used together to predict the presence/absence of IOO. Spores of sulphite-reducing clostridia (SRC) showed parallel reduction patterns and high correlation values (r = 0.76) with reductions in TOO. Furthermore, simple regression analyses of SRC and TOO in reclaimed water showed high correlation values (r = 0.85). Therefore, at the treatment plants studied, SRC can be considered to have good indicator and index functions for TOO. From the point of view of health protection, the use of SRC together with E. coli (which is mandatory in the current Spanish regulations) would satisfy the need for improved reclaimed water management.
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