Indirect Wastewater Reuse Along the Yangtze River, China

Wang Z, Shao D, Westerhoff P. Wastewater discharge impact on drinking water sources along the Yangtze River (China).Sci Total Environ. 2017 May 17;599-600:1399-1407. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.05.078.

Unplanned indirect (de facto) wastewater reuse occurs when wastewater is discharged into surface waters upstream of potable drinking water treatment plant intakes. This paper aims to predict percentages and trends of de facto reuse throughout the Yangtze River watershed in order to understand the relative contribution of wastewater discharges into the river and its tributaries towards averting water scarcity concerns. The Yangtze River is the third longest in the world and supports more than 1/15 of the world’s population, yet the importance of wastewater on the river remains ill-defined. Municipal wastewater produced in the Yangtze River Basin increased by 41% between 1998 and 2014, from 2580m3/s to 3646m3/s. Under low flow conditions in the Yangtze River near Shanghai, treated wastewater contributions to river flows increased from 8% in 1998 to 14% in 2014. The highest levels of de facto reuse appeared along a major tributary (Han River) of the Yangtze River, where de facto reuse can exceed 20%. While this initial analysis of de facto reuse used water supply and wastewater data from 110 cities in the basin and 11 gauging stations with >50years of historic streamflow data, the outcome was limited by the lack of gauging stations at more locations (i.e., data had to be predicted using digital elevation mapping) and lack of precise geospatial location of drinking water intakes or wastewater discharges. This limited the predictive capability of the model relative to larger datasets available in other countries (e.g., USA). This assessment is the first analysis of de facto wastewater reuse in the Yangtze River Basin. It will help identify sections of the river at higher risk for wastewater-related pollutants due to presence of-and reliance on-wastewater discharge that could be the focus of field studies and model predictions of higher spatial and temporal resolution.

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