Alternating water sources to minimize contaminant accumulation in food plants from treated wastewater irrigation

Water Res. 2024 Mar 22;255:121504. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2024.121504. Online ahead of print.


The use of treated wastewater (TWW) for agricultural irrigation is a critical measure in advancing sustainable water management and agricultural production. However, TWW irrigation in agriculture serves as a conduit to introduce many contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) into the soil-plant-food continuum, posing potential environmental and human health risks. Currently, there are few practical options to mitigate the potential risk while promoting the safe reuse of TWW. In this greenhouse study, the accumulation of 11 commonly occurring CECs was evaluated in three vegetables (radish, lettuce, and tomato) subjected to two different irrigation schemes: whole-season irrigation with CEC-spiked water (FULL), and half-season irrigation with CEC-spiked water, followed by irrigation with clean water for the remaining season (HALF). Significant decreases (57.0-99.8 %, p < 0.05) in the accumulation of meprobamate, carbamazepine, PFBS, PFBA, and PFHxA in edible tissues were found for the HALF treatment with the alternating irrigation scheme. The CEC accumulation reduction was attributed to reduced chemical input, soil degradation, plant metabolism, and plant growth dilution. The structural equation modeling showed that this mitigation strategy was particularly effective for CECs with a high bioaccumulation potential and short half-life in soil, while less effective for those that are more persistent. The study findings demonstrate the effectiveness of this simple and on-farm applicable management strategy that can be used to minimize the potential contamination of food crops from the use of TWW and other marginal water sources in agriculture, while promoting safe reuse and contributing to environmental sustainability.

PMID:38555786 | DOI:10.1016/j.watres.2024.121504