New standards at European Union level on water reuse for agricultural irrigation: Are the Spanish wastewater treatment plants ready to produce and distribute reclaimed water within the minimum quality requirements?

Pilar Truchado*, Maria I. Gil, Cecilia López, Alberto Garre, Román F. López-Aragón, Karola Böhme, Ana Allende

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The new European regulation on minimum quality requirements (MQR) for water reuse (EU, 2020/741) was launched in May 2020 and describes the directives for the use of reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation. This Regulation will be directly applicable in all Member States from 26 June 2023. Since its publication in 2020, concerns have raised about potential non-compliance situations in water reuse systems. The present study represents a case study where three different water reuse systems have been monitored to establish their compliance with the MQR. Each water reuse system includes a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), a distribution/storage system and an end-user point, where water is used for irrigation of leafy greens. The selected water reuse systems allowed us to compare the efficacy of water treatments implemented in two WWTPs as well as the impact of three different irrigation systems (drip, furrow and overhead irrigation). The presence and concentration of indicator microorganisms (Escherichia coli and C. perfringens spores) as well as pathogenic bacteria (Shiga toxin-producing, E. coli (STEC), E. coli O157:H7, and Salmonella spp.) were monitored in different sampling points (influent and effluent of the WWTPs, water reservoirs located at the distribution system and the end-user point at the irrigation system as well as in the leafy greens during their growing cycle. Average levels of E. coli (0.73 ± 1.20 log cfu E. coli/100 mL) obtained at the point where the WWTP operator delivers reclaimed water to the next actor in the chain, defined in the European regulation as the ‘point of compliance’, were within the established MQR (<1 log cfu/100 mL) (EU, 2020/741). On the other hand, average levels of E. coli at the end-user point (1.0 ± 1.2 log cfu/100 mL) were below the recommended threshold (2 log cfu E. coli/100 mL) for irrigation water based on the guidance document on microbiological risks in fresh fruits and vegetables at primary production (EC, 2017/C_163/01). However, several outlier points were observed among the samples taken at the irrigation point, which were linked to a specific cross-contamination event within the distribution/storage system. Regarding pathogenic bacteria, water samples from the influent of the WWTPs showed a 100% prevalence, while only 5% of the effluent samples were positive for any of the monitored pathogenic bacteria. Obtained results indicate that reclaimed water produced in the selected water reuse system is suitable to be used as irrigation water. However, efforts are necessary not only in the establishment of advance disinfection treatments but also in the maintenance of the distribution/storage systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109352
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Volume356
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Irrigation water
  • Leafy greens
  • Pathogenic bacteria
  • Reclaimed water
  • Regulation
  • Wastewater treatment plants

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'New standards at European Union level on water reuse for agricultural irrigation: Are the Spanish wastewater treatment plants ready to produce and distribute reclaimed water within the minimum quality requirements?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this