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What are potential sources of water-borne fecal contamination and fecal bacteria?

The source or sources of fecal contamination at a beach are often not known for certain because of the complex workings of wind, weather and water patterns, in concert with the origin of fecal contamination, warm-blooded animals. These animals include waterfowl (geese, sea gulls, terns, etc.), wildlife (deer, beaver, rabbits, bear, etc.), domesticated animals (horses, cows, pigs, etc.), pets (dogs, cats, etc.), and humans.

Fecal contamination can reach waterways through multiple methods, including direct deposition, stormwater runoff that carries fecal matter from inland, failing or leaking individual septic systems, sanitary sewer systems breakages and overflows, improper diaper disposal, swimmer fecal accidents, improper boat waste disposal, and much more.