Indirect Wastewater Reuse in the United States: Low Impact

Rice J, Westerhoff P. Spatial and Temporal Variation in De Facto Wastewater Reuse in Drinking Water Systems across the U.S.A. Environmental Science and Technology. 2014 Dec 29.

De facto potable reuse occurs when treated wastewater is discharged into surface waters upstream of potable drinking water treatment plant (DWTP) intakes. Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharges may pose water quality risks at the downstream DWTP, but additional flow aids in providing a reliable water supply source. In this work de facto reuse is analyzed for 2056 surface water intakes serving 1210 DWTPs across the U.S.A. that serve greater than 10 000 people, covering approximately 82% of the nation’s population. An ArcGIS model is developed to assess spatial relationships between DWTPs and WWTPs, with a python script designed to perform a network analysis by hydrologic region. A high frequency of de facto reuse occurrence was observed; 50% of the DWTP intakes are potentially impacted by upstream WWTP discharges. However, the magnitude of de facto reuse was seen to be relatively low, where 50% of the impacted intakes contained less than 1% treated municipal wastewater under average streamflow conditions. De facto reuse increased greatly under low streamflow conditions (modeled by Q95), with 32 of the 80 sites yielding at least 50% treated wastewater, this portion of the analysis is limited to sites where stream gauge data was readily available.

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