Irrigation with treated wastewater: effects on soil, lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) crop and dynamics of microorganisms

Pilar Mañas, Elena Castro, Jorge de Las Heras
Journal of Environmental Science and Health. Part A, Toxic/hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering 2009, 44 (12): 1261-73
The aim of this study was to evaluate the applicability of treated wastewater for horticultural crops, assess the effects of continuous use of treated water on soil and crops, and analyse the physical, chemical and biological effects of irrigation with recycled water. Two lettuce plots watered with drinking water and treated wastewater were monitored over a three year period. Nutrients, heavy metal and the dynamics of pathogen and indicator microorganism content in soil and foliar tissues were analysed. Wastewater irrigation had a high influence on soil parameters: organic matter, N, P, Ca, Al, Fe, Pb and Zn. Indicator and pathogenic microorganisms were detected in soil and plants grown in the wastewater-irrigated plot, and persisted in the soil for 27 days during the study under humid conditions. N, P, Pb and Al content were significantly higher in plant tissues of wastewater-irrigated plots than in the control after 3 years of irrigation. Harvest was significantly higher in the wastewater-irrigated plot. Wastewater can be a resource for agricultural irrigation. In any case, the possible heavy metal accumulation in soils and presence of pathogenic organisms require careful management of this alternative resource: use of a drip irrigation system, previous wastewater disinfection and a limited irrigation period are recommended.

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