Purdue University Graduate School
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Developing Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) Models for Predicting E. Coli at Lake Michigan Beaches

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posted on 2020-07-24, 14:00 authored by Mitra KhanibaseriMitra Khanibaseri

A neural network model was developed to predict the E. Coli levels and classes in six (6) select Lake Michigan beaches. Water quality observations at the time of sampling and discharge information from two close tributaries were used as input to predict the E. coli. This research was funded by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). A user-friendly Excel Sheet based tool was developed based on the best model for making future predictions of E. coli classes. This tool will facilitate beach managers to take real-time decisions.

The nowcast model was developed based on historical tributary flows and water quality measurements (physical, chemical and biological). The model uses experimentally available information such as total dissolved solids, total suspended solids, pH, electrical conductivity, and water temperature to estimate whether the E. Coli counts would exceed the acceptable standard. For setting up this model, field data collection was carried out during 2019 beachgoer’s season.

IDEM recommends posting an advisory at the beach indicating swimming and wading are not recommended when E. coli counts exceed advisory standards. Based on the advisory limit, a single water sample shall not exceed an E. Coli count of 235 colony forming units per 100 milliliters (cfu/100ml). Advisories are removed when bacterial levels fall within the acceptable standard. However, the E. coli results were available after a time lag leading to beach closures from previous day results. Nowcast models allow beach managers to make real-time beach advisory decisions instead of waiting a day or more for laboratory results to become available.

Using the historical data, an extensive experiment was carried out, to obtain the suitable input variables and optimal neural network architecture. The best feed-forward neural network model was developed using Bayesian Regularization Neural Network (BRNN) training algorithm. Developed ANN model showed an average prediction accuracy of around 87% in predicting the E. coli classes.


Indiana Department of Environmental Management


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Engineering


  • Interdisciplinary Engineering

Campus location

  • Hammond

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Chandramouli Viswanatha Chandramouli

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Chien-Chung Chen

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Jilian Li