Situation in Austria
Enterococci are routinely analysed in drinking water, (bathing) pool water and in bathing waters. The detection of enterococci indicates with high probability a faecal contamination, therefore there is also the possibility that the water is contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites). A parameter value (limit value) of 0 in 100 ml applies to drinking water, i.e. enterococci must not be detectable in 100 ml of water.
Enterococci occur ubiquitously in the environment (water, soil), in animals and in humans (in the normal intestinal flora). These bacteria were first cultivated from stool samples in 1899. In food, enterococci play a role in fermentation and ripening processes (e.g. camembert and goat cheese).
Since enterococci are regularly found in the stools of humans and animals, their detection in bathing waters is also taken as an indication of faecal contamination. Faecal contamination can cause illness by introducing obligate pathogenic microorganisms (e.g. faeces of persons with hepatitis A viruses).
According to the Drinking Water Ordinance, the operator of a water supply system is obliged to inform the consumers and to point out any precautionary measures (e.g. restrictions on the use of the water or certain treatment procedures such as boiling at boiling temperature, which must be maintained for at least three minutes, if the microbiological requirements are not met). Furthermore, the purchasers must be informed that this information is to be brought to the attention of all consumers (e.g. by posting it in the building) in an appropriate manner.
After completion of disinfection, bacteriological control tests are required to verify the success of the measures taken.