Importance of soil texture to the fate of pathogens introduced by irrigation with treated wastewater.


Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, J. Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University, Midreshet Ben Gurion 84990, Israel. Electronic address: [Email]


World-wide water scarcity is urging the use of treated wastewater (TWW) for irrigation but this practice may have adverse effects on soil and crop contamination due to the introduction of potential microbial pathogens. The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential health risks caused by TWW irrigation of soils differing in their texture, i.e., soil particle fractions including sand, silt and clay. We predicted that the presence of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and pathogens would not be linked to TWW irrigation, yet their abundance would be favored by the smallest soil fraction (~2 nm, e.g., clay) as it provides the largest surface area. To test our hypotheses, culture dependent and independent techniques were used to monitor the presence, abundance and source of FIB and microbial pathogens (bacteria and protists) in water (TWW and potable water) and three irrigated soil types (clay, loam and loamy-sand) in a field study spanning two years. The results showed that FIB and pathogens' abundance were significantly different between water types, yet these differences did not carry to the irrigated soils. The abundance and presence of FIB and potential opportunistic or obligate human pathogens did not significantly differ (p > 0.05) between TWW and potable water irrigated soils. Moreover, the source of the FIB and potential pathogens could not be linked to irrigation with TWW. Yet, soil type significantly altered the potential pathogens' diversity (p < 0.05) and abundance (p < 0.05), and differences were affected by clay content, as predicted. The results gave no indication for potential adverse health effects associated with the application of TWW but demonstrated that clay has a particular stabilizing effect on the potential presence of microbial pathogens.


16S rDNA,Illumina,Lysimeter,Pathogen,Treated wastewater,Vegetable,

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