Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges

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1. Introduction

The book also includes an analysis of the effect of wastewater entering drinking water sources and production, and provides updated information on wastewater reuse for irrigation in North Africa. It presents an important integration tool for water recovery, known as water pinch analysis, and finally showcases two other examples of reuse — one in the paper industry and one in landfill management.

It is of interest to experts from various fields of research, including analytical and environmental chemistry, toxicology and environmental and sanitary engineering. Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges. Helminth eggs showed little variability within the three zones and there was no obvious difference between the wet and dry seasons.

However, both Giardia spp. The concentrations of microorganisms reported are similar to those previously described for untreated wastewater in Mexico [ 19 ] and are similar to untreated wastewater from other countries [ 21 , 22 ], but much greater than concentrations seen in effluents of treatment plants [ 19 ].

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Microbiological quality of raw wastewater and characteristics of selected indicators values in parenthesis indicate range of concentration. Although it was expected that concentrations of microorganisms would be lower in the wet season due to rainfall dilution, this happens intermittently as the wet season is characterized by irregular intense storms. An additional issue is that the wastewater is mixed with stored rainwater and wastewater depending on the amount of water required by farmers and thus its quality exhibits some variability.

Concentration of selected microorganisms in different zones of the Tula Valley Adapted from [10] and [23]. Emerging pollutants are defined as those unregulated pollutants that may be controlled by future regulations depending on their potential effects on health and ecosystems [ 24 ]. Advances in analytical techniques for their detection and an increased understanding of their effects on public health and the environment, has increased the need to establish discharge limits worldwide. During the last two decades, the study of emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine disruptors included as additives of gasoline, plastics, or detergents in the environment has gained scientific attention.

Many of these studies have been performed in aquatic ecosystems in the United States of America and Europe [ 24 ]. However, for most of the emerging pollutants there are still insufficient data to indicate their risk and ecotoxicity and thus their effects on human health or aquatic organisms remains unknown.

Many of these compounds reach the environment through wastewater and they may be removed in wastewater facilities, however, some of them remain in treated effluents and enter the environment, eventually reaching groundwater [ 25 , 26 ]. Considering that developed countries have detected emerging pollutants in water and wastewater, even after treatment, their presence in wastewater from the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico was clearly expected.

Furthermore, the fact that many prescription drugs in developed countries are considered over-the-counter medications in Mexico, there is a higher probability of finding their active ingredients in wastewater. On the other hand, agricultural irrigation favors the transport of pollutants, such as pesticides, from soil to groundwater.

These conditions may promote their adsorption to soil particles or their leaching to groundwater. It has been reported that wastewater irrigation, treated or untreated, increases the concentration of pesticides in groundwater [ 30 ]. As mentioned previously, the presence of emerging pollutants was expected in wastewater from the MAVM, and thus at the Tula Valley, and was confirmed by different studies.

Some of them [ 31 ] analyzed wastewater samples and found a variety of compounds with the exception of clofibric acid. Concentrations found were similar to those reported for wastewater samples taken at treatment plants Table 2 , but higher than those reported for their effluents [ 32 , 33 ]. The concentrations of naproxen, a widely use pharmaceutical in Mexico, as well as salicylic acid were higher than those reported in other countries, while ibuprofen, diclofenac, are variable in comparison.

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Other compounds like 4-nonylphenol and diethylhexyl phthalate were the predominant endocrine disruptors in wastewater. It was observed that dilution occurred during the rainy season when reported concentrations of endocrine disruptors were about half of those during the dry season. Nonetheless, acid pharmaceuticals remain similar in both seasons which may suggest another phenomenon. Siemens et al. However, the authors suggest that acid compounds may permeate clay soils and exhibit poor removal compared to basic or neutral chemicals.

Nevertheless, none of the reported compounds were found in spring water. In the Tula Valley, known as the largest case of indirect wastewater reuse for human consumption in the world, natural soil aquifer treatment SAT has been taken place for more than years, recharging the aquifer and acting as a barrier to prevent contaminants from entering it. During percolation, natural soil infiltration occurs through unsaturated soil; as the effluent moves through the soil and the aquifer, it can undergo significant quality improvements through physical, chemical and biological processes.

It acts as a natural filter, and produces groundwater of acceptable quality due to the characteristics of the soil-aquifer structure, the residence time, and the history of the complex geohydrological system. Table 3 showed the historical data of wastewater and aquifer water quality variability obtained from studies performed at the site.

Treated wastewater reuse as a measure to reduce the water footprint

It indicates that parameters related with salinity behavior are present in groundwater, in addition to parameters such as nitrate, and solids in dissolved phase. Water quality variability for wastewater and the Tula Valley aquifer and natural removal percentages SAT. Data recorded over many years regarding the attenuation of emerging pollutants through soil show a mean reduction of 86 percent of the chemical load in the wastewater used for irrigation Table 3. The main attenuation processes such as adsorption and biodegradation have been confirmed in experimental studies with local soil samples, and enriched samples [ 23 ].

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The most important result of this research is the observation that large amounts of suspended and dissolved organic matter in soils [ 41 ], and even in raw wastewater, improve the adsorption of emerging pollutants in soils, and therefore their final low content in groundwater; this verifies previously published results with regard to the role of natural SAT in removing pollutants [ 26 , 42 ].

Other studies have shown that heavy metals have accumulated in soil in the Tula Valley for example cadmium, nickel, and lead and their retention is associated with the length of time that wastewater has been used for irrigation [ 45 ]. However, the effect on soil attenuation must be evaluated as Gibson et al. Reuse in the Tula Valley has functioned as a discharge route for the closed basin of the MAVM at a relatively low cost.

The characteristics of the water, in terms of organic matter and nutrients have significantly increased crop productivity in the Valley and have allowed farmers to harvest up to five crops per year of alfalfa, fodder oats, tomato, barley, and maize.

Introduction: From Water Remediation to Water Mining: Cradle-To-Cradle in Wastewater

It is with this infiltration that wastewater quality is improved before reaching the groundwater through processes like adsorption or biodegradation, which depend on contact time and filtering distance. As an example, travel times from the irrigated fields to the springs are estimated to be 3 to 5 days with groundwater velocities of 0.

The amount of available water with a relatively good quality allows some areas to be used to grow vegetables like tomato, lettuce, cabbage, beetroot, cilantro, radish, carrot, spinach, and parsley [ 16 ]. At the same time, surface and groundwater produced by wastewater infiltration provide drinking water to approximately , people after only treatment with chlorine for disinfection [ 12 ].


In contrast, wastewater reuse in the Tula Valley has some negative impacts on the local population and the environment. Due to the pathogens and parasites contained in wastewater, the incidence of gastrointestinal diseases has increased by more than 16 times in children living in the irrigation area, compared to children unexposed to wastewater [ 48 ]. In addition, microbial and organic pollutants have been detected in the soil matrix of the irrigation areas at various depths [ 41 , 44 ].

Heavy metals have accumulated in the upper soil layer [ 49 ], and Siebe [ 45 ] suggests that eventually the retention capacity of the soil might be exceeded with the risk of groundwater pollution. Moreover, the gradual salinization of local soils has caused the loss of more than 2, ha of cropland [ 17 ]. At the same time, several studies [ 23 , 31 , 40 , 41 , 43 , 44 ] report the presence of emerging pollutants in springs and wells, which poses a health risk to local population approximately , inhabitants that use the water for human consumption Figure 5.

These pollutants exhibit low removal by conventional treatment processes and thus alternative technologies, such as membrane filtration nanofiltration or reverse osmosis , have been proposed [ 51 ]. Different studies have demonstrated that nanofiltration removes emerging pollutants, including those with low molecular weight, in particular pesticides [ 52 ], pharmaceuticals [ 51 ], and endocrine disruptors [ 52 ].

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As a result, to improve the quality of spring water in the Tula Valley, a pilot plant with a nanofiltration membrane was installed in the Cerro Colorado Spring Figure 5 [ 53 ]; The pilot plant The nanofiltration NF membrane was selected after laboratory trials on a pilot cell. The pilot plant had the instrumentation required to measure flow, pH, TDS, as well as pressure along the system. Treated water permeate met the limits for drinking water and thus it could be considered suitable for human consumption.

Based on such studies, filtered water from the Tula Valley is being considered as a potential source for supplying drinking water for Mexico City and studies have determined that 6. Findings confirmed by 15 years of research into the complex Tula Valley hydrological and hydraulic system, are:.

Wastewater reuse for irrigation has proven to be an alternative in the water-scarce region of Tula Valley. Agricultural irrigation in the Tula Valley using raw wastewater from the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico has been performed for more than years and several studies have demonstrated that complex phenomena occur. One of these is the natural SAT in the saturated soil zone, which even occurs today after a century of irrigation, mainly in terms of the retention of typical pathogenic organisms and emerging contaminants in wastewater of urban origin.

Wastewater reuse

The observed level of natural removal through filtration by soil exceeds the expected removal levels from conventional wastewater treatment, not only for emerging contaminants, but also for microorganisms that are difficult to remove by chlorine disinfection. Non-intentional aquifer recharge with water purification by natural infiltration, achieved through agricultural reuse of untreated wastewater, has provided new water sources for the local population with the potential to supply water for human consumption to the large city from which comes the reused wastewater originates.

Advanced treatment studies conducted by our research group have shown that it is possible to treat water from aquifer for safe water supply. There is no doubt about the benefits of wastewater reuse for irrigation, but some potential impacts should be considered:. Even though the soil matrix retains pollutants, the limit of the soil retention capacity remains uncertain, largely for metals and emerging compounds.

Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges : Despo Fatta-Kassinos :

As described in [,]; such suitability study could involve the next steps: i the selection of criteria and variables that allow or constrain wastewater irrigation, ii the establishment of suitability thresholds for the variables selected, iii the quantification of wastewater availability, iv a preliminary estimation of crop requirements, v a spatial representation of the variables using Geographic Information Systems GIS tools, and vi the construction of suitability maps.

The latter maps can give a quick idea of the areas that are suitable for wastewater irrigation and can help decision makers to allocate resources to promote this activity. Several feasibility studies following this or similar approaches have been reported [,,]. Variables for the selection of appropriate sites might include type of soil, slope, crops, and the distance to wastewater sources, vulnerable sites and urban areas, among others. A local assessment of the environmental and health impacts of wastewater irrigation is also required.

Past experiences are paramount in this respect. For instance, the effects on human health and food chains of micro pollutants e. The more understanding about the risks posed by pathogens, the greater the confidence the public will have in wastewater use []. Since major public health problems are related to pathogens, developing reliable procedures to screen them is essential for an appropriate risk assessment [] and also to establish regulations [10].

Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges
Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges
Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges
Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges
Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges
Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges
Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges Wastewater Reuse and Current Challenges

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