Managed aquifer recharge of treated wastewater: Water quality changes resulting from infiltration through the vadose zone
Secondary treated wastewater was infiltrated through a 9 m-thick calcareous vadose zone during a 39 month managed aquifer recharge (MAR) field trial to determine potential improvements in the recycled water quality. The water quality improvements of the recycled water were based on changes in the chemistry and microbiology of (i) the recycled water prior to infiltration relative to (ii) groundwater immediately down-gradient from the infiltration gallery. Changes in the average concentrations of several constituents in the recycled water were identified with reductions of 30% for phosphorous, 66% for fluoride, 62% for iron and 51% for total organic carbon when the secondary treated wastewater was infiltrated at an applied rate of 17.5 L per minute with a residence time of approximately four days in the vadose zone and less than two days in the aquifer. Reductions were also noted for oxazepam and temazepam among the pharmaceuticals tested and for a range of microbial pathogens, but reductions were harder to quantify as their magnitudes varied over time. Total nitrogen and carbamazepine persisted in groundwater down-gradient from the infiltration galleries. Infiltration does potentially offer a range of water quality improvements over direct injection to the water table without passage through the unsaturated zone; however, additional treatment options for the non-potable water may still need to be considered, depending on the receiving environment or the end use of the recovered water.
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