Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Technology

What is it and how does it work?

Using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology, we’re able to take a simple water sample and determine exactly what organisms, including vertebrates, native fish, and bacteria have been in contact with that water source.

Two pieces of equipment in the AWQC’s Adelaide lab – the ION Chef and the ION S5 – create DNA chips and unique barcodes for organisms found in water source samples, providing more detailed and reliable information than any water quality lab in Australia has previously had access to.

Similar technology is being used by hospitals across the country for cancer and genetics research, but we are the first in Australia to adopt this technology for water quality management.

The equipment is currently helping to detect good bacteria in samples from SA Water’s Glenelg and Christies Beach Wastewater Treatment Plants, which is used to enhance the treatment of sewage before it’s recycled or goes out to sea.

The technique is also being further developed to enable improved analysis of a wider range of organisms, including aquatic insects and algae, in source water such as the River Murray.

What are its advantages over other analysing methods?

NGS technology is more efficient and cost-effective than traditional sampling techniques, as it involves less manual processes, in the lab and out in the field. It’s also less invasive to the environment. Instead of catching fish with nets or wading in the water with collection trays to obtain samples for determining the presence of specific species, all we need to do now is collect about a litre of source water.

This technology provides more reliable and targeted results. It has a higher chance of detection, especially for secretive or endangered species, or species occurring at low densities.

Our databases are curated and refined using validated species, with specific primers giving consistent data across areas and locations both temporally and spatially dispersed.

In some cases, it can also provide higher taxonomic resolution, especially in cases where species cannot be distinguished based on morphological characteristics.

How could it help me?

We can offer a full suite of molecular analyses for targeting input from animal sources into water, from source water to treated water. We are able to use DNA fingerprinting of E. coli, Faecal Source Tracking markers (FST), bDNA (bacterial DNA) and vDNA (vertebrate DNA) to determine risk, allowing timely operational management decisions.

We provide unique interactive reporting to maximise your understanding of the data, along with an interpretational report. All raw data files will be available to our clients upon request.

How can I find out more?

Contact the Australian Water Quality Centre (AWQC) on 1300 653 366.