Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 223, Issue 8, pp 4733–4749 | Cite as

Fate of Graywater Constituents After Long-Term Application for Landscape Irrigation

  • Masoud Negahban-Azar
  • Sybil E. Sharvelle
  • Mary E. Stromberger
  • Christopher Olson
  • Larry A. Roesner


While interest in and adoption of graywater reuse for irrigation has rapidly grown in recent years, little is known about the long-term effects of graywater irrigation. Concerns exist in relation to the presence of pathogenic organisms, fate of personal care products, and accumulation of salts. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the long-term effects of graywater irrigation to soil quality under real conditions where homeowners may not always apply graywater in a highly controlled manner. Four households from different climatic and geological conditions were selected for sampling (AZ, CA, CO, and TX) where graywater was applied for irrigation for a minimum of 5 years. Soil samples were collected in areas irrigated with graywater and areas irrigated with freshwater within the same yard. Soil cores were taken at depths of 0–15, 15–30, and 30–100 cm and analyzed separately for surfactants, antimicrobials, sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), electrical conductivity (EC), extractable boron, fecal indicator organisms (E. coli, enterococci, and Clostridium perfringens), and soil dehydrogenase activity. In surface soil samples (0–15 cm), the average total surfactant concentration (over all sites) was higher in graywater-irrigated soil (0.078 ± 0.033) compared to freshwater-irrigated soil (0.030 ± 0.025 mg kg−1). This difference was not found to be significant (P > 0.05). Triclosan and triclocarban were detected in surface soil samples at some locations (3.8–6.3 and 3.5–9.1 μg kg−1, respectively), but not in samples deeper than 15 cm. Among the sampling locations, the TX household appeared to be most impacted by graywater, as evidenced by elevated SAR, potentially toxic levels of B, and relatively high numbers of E. coli and enterococci due to 30 years of graywater application for irrigation.


Graywater reuse Irrigation Surfactants Antimicrobials Pathogens 



This study was part of a project, which has been funded by Water and Environment Research Foundation project number 06-CTS-1CO.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masoud Negahban-Azar
    • 1
  • Sybil E. Sharvelle
    • 1
  • Mary E. Stromberger
    • 2
  • Christopher Olson
    • 1
  • Larry A. Roesner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Soil and Crop SciencesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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