Assessing environmental impacts of treated wastewater through monitoring of fecal indicator bacteria and salinity in irrigated soils
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To assess the potential for treated wastewater irrigation to impact levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and salinity in irrigated soils, levels of Escherichia coli, Enterococcus, and environmental covariates were measured in a treated wastewater holding pond (irrigation source water), water leaving the irrigation system, and in irrigated soils over 2 years in a municipal parkland in Arizona. Higher E. coli levels were measured in the pond in winter (56 CFU 100 mL−1) than in summer (17 CFU 100 mL−1); however, in the irrigation system, levels of FIB decreased from summer (26 CFU 100 mL−1) to winter (4 CFU 100 mL−1), possibly related to low winter water use and corresponding death of residual bacteria within the system. For over 2 years, no increase in FIB was found in irrigated soils, though highest E. coli levels (700 CFU g−1 soil) were measured in deeper (20–25 cm) soils during summer. Measurements of water inputs vs. potential evapotranspiration indicate that irrigation levels may have been sufficient to generate bacterial percolation to deeper soil layers during summer. No overall increase in soil salinity resulting from treated wastewater irrigation was detected, but distinct seasonal peaks as high as 4 ds m−1 occurred during both summers. The peaks significantly declined in winter when surface ET abated and more favorable water balances could be maintained. Monitoring of seasonal shifts in irrigation water quality and/or factors correlated with increases and decreases in FIB will aid in identification of any public health or environmental risks that could arise from the use of treated wastewater for irrigation.
KeywordsEscherichia coli Enterococcus Water reuse Fecal indicator bacteria Soil salinity Turfgrass
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