The challenges associated with managing microbial contamination of water resources and the roles that science plays in addressing those challenges are at the forefront of water policy discussions across the country. In a recent review of the literature Smith and Perdek, (2004) concluded “ a significant body of research is needed to understand the uncertainties in pathogenic [microorganism] processes at the watershed scale… ”. This recent study illustrates the knowledge gaps and evolving nature of our understanding of microbial contamination of surface water.
The Environmental Pathogens Information Network (EPI-NET) was a keystone organization that provides a stable, centralized resource of water related environmental microbiological contamination information, encourages information sharing, connects a network of stakeholders, regulatory officials, and technical experts, provides a reliable point of reference (methods and data interpretation) and increases our ability to develop a coherent national research agenda and good public policy. The EPI-NET project is unfunded at the present time.
The overarching goal of EPI-NET is to develop and then transfer the fullest possible understanding of how microbial pathogens enter into and then function in watersheds so that we can properly manage and prevent the spread of microorganisms and the diseases they cause. EPI-NET will serve as an important resource for state and local governments as working on biocriteria for water quality. Furthermore, EPI-NET will function to better inform our citizens of the problems associated with pathogens in the environment and it is ultimately organized to provide prevention approaches that forestall the need for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).