Impacts of Reused/Reclamed Water: Risks and Benefits

Project ID: 9782
Principal Investigator: Denise Hosler
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Priority Area Assignments: 2015 (Advanced Water Treatment)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2015
Keywords: recycled water, water reuse, reclaimed water, waterborne diseases, government infrastructure, pathogen removal, water treatment

Research Question

What are the unforeseen consequences and impacts of reused and reclaimed water to communities and natural resources? Are there hidden issues that need to be addressed to ensure the safety of our recycled water? As water resources in the western US diminish, recycling or reuse of water becomes more of a necessity than a choice. Since Reclamation is moving bulk raw water as part of its mission, are there or should there be concerns regarding inputs? This is a scoping proposal to gather information to answer these questions and hopefully, determine the scope these issues in the western US. If it is found to have merit, the team may make recommendations for further research.
The 2012 Water Reuse report published by the National Research Council of the National Academies state areas of research as importance that need special consideration to be:
1. Address critical gaps in the understanding of health impacts of human exposure to constituents in reclaimed water (p. 194)
2. Strengthen waterborne disease surveillance, investigation methods, government response infrastructure, and epidemiological research tools and capacity (p. 195)
3. Develop a better understanding of pathogen removal efficiencies and the variability of performance in various unit processes and multibarrier treatment and develop ways to optimize these processes (p. 196)

Need and Benefit

Reclamation reservoirs store and move waters from a number of surface water sources, some of which may have unknown quality for end users. Reclamation waters are used for power generation, recreation, and agricultural application. It would behoove the agency to be aware of any potential recycled water concerns prior to having an actual issue with delivered water. Some current concerns that need further understanding include the transport of chemicals or detrimental microscopic or viral organisms that may have downstream impacts for agriculture or drinking water intakes. Generally, the large volumes of raw water reduce the concentrations of concern, while photo, bacterial, and deactivation neutralize effects of these constituents. As more attention is given to TMDLs in raw water systems, a clear understanding of the impacts and issues recycled and reused water could help facility managers avoid potential problems. Knowledgeable facility manages can then make management decisions that will help to circumvent potential issues.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Impacts of Reused/Reclaimed Water: Risks and Benefits (final, PDF, 800KB)
By Denise Hosler
Publication completed on September 30, 2015

The use of recycled municipal wastewater for drinking and agricultural use will become more common in the Western United States in the presence of drought and population increase. Implementation of water reuse practices is difficult because of the many potential hazards to human, plant and environmental health. Many of the potential hazards are poorly understood and little is known about specific detection and treatment methods. The goal of this literature review is to compile a list of organisms, chemicals, and other issues that may have potential impacts on the recipients of reused and reclaimed water. The following tables list the issue of concern, its known impact on animal, plant, or environmental health, the dose or level of concern, and the known detection and treatment methods.


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Last Updated: 4/4/17