Predictive statistical models linking antecedent meteorological conditions and waterway bacterial contamination in urban waterways


Although the relationships between meteorological conditions and waterway bacterial contamination are being better understood, statistical models capable of fully leveraging these links have not been developed for highly urbanized settings. We present a hierarchical Bayesian regression model for predicting transient fecal indicator bacteria contamination episodes in urban waterways. Canals, creeks, and rivers of the New York City harbor system are used to examine the model. The model configuration facilitates the hierarchical structure of the underlying system with weekly observations nested within sampling sites, which in turn were nested inside of the harbor network. Models are compared using cross-validation and a variety of Bayesian and classical model fit statistics. The uncertainty of predicted enterococci concentration values is reflected by sampling from the posterior predictive distribution. Issuing predictions with the uncertainty reasonably reflected allows a water manager or a monitoring agency to issue warnings that better reflect the underlying risk of exposure. A model using only antecedent meteorological conditions is shown to correctly classify safe and unsafe levels of enterococci with good accuracy. The hierarchical Bayesian regression approach is most valuable where transient fecal indicator bacteria contamination is problematic and drainage network data are scarce.

In Water Research