As 2016 is coming to an end, we are preparing for Christmas and would like to conclude the year with our latest edition of the Newsletter on Water&Risk. We hope you have all had a pleasant year with new discoveries in the field of water and risk. While the analysis of E. coli in water is nearly unchanged for more than a century, new methods are continuously being developed in order to increase the specificity of tests, reduce the time needed to retrieve results, and provide more detailed information about the microbial water community. While highly specialized technicians use the latest analytical technologies to figure out differences on molecular levels, we still need robust and cheap methods for laboratory analyses that have to be carried out under basic conditions in low-resource settings. Sometimes equipment is limited, power cuts make incubation at specific temperatures challenging, ants discover agar plates as their food source, dust becomes the biggest enemy, and the ability to improvise is indispensable. Nevertheless, with robust analytical methods we are able to produce reliable results, detecting fecal contamination and revealing potential infectious risks.
These results are integrated into the decision-making supporting not only drinking water safety in lowresource settings, but also regarding recreational water quality and other water usages. The concentrations of fecal indicators in water serve as an indicator for health risks and help establish different guideline values which should not be exceeded depending on the intended use. Nonetheless, we must keep in mind that compliance with guideline values does not result in complete absence of risk. There are pathogens that do not correlate with fecal indicators; the amount of indicators may be influenced by the environment and season; and unique individual susceptibility to disease must be considered.
Finally, we can expect new risks to emerge, including antibiotic resistance and disease transmission through global trade. These are gaining increasing attention as researchers aim to deliver more knowledge about newly discovered risks that are carried via water. Let´s see what 2017 will bring.