Greywater irrigation as a source of organic micro-pollutants to shallow groundwater and nearby surface water

Ryan D.R. Turner, Michael St J. Warne, Les A. Dawes, Kristie Thompson, Geoffrey D. Will

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Increased water demands due to population growth and increased urbanisation have driven adoption of various water reuse practices. The irrigation of greywater (water from all household uses, except toilets) has been proposed as one potential sustainable practice. Research has clearly identified environmental harm from the presence of micro-pollutants in soils, groundwater and surface water. Greywater contains a range of micro pollutants yet very little is known about their potential environmental fate when greywater is irrigated to soil. Therefore, this study assessed whether organic micro-pollutants in irrigated greywater were transferred to shallow groundwater and an adjacent surface waterway. A total of 22 organic micro-pollutants were detected in greywater. Six of these (acesulfame, caffeine, DEET, paracetamol, salicylic acid and triclosan) were selected as potential tracers of greywater contamination. Three of these chemicals (acesulfame, caffeine, DEET) were detected in the groundwater, while salicylic acid was also detected in adjacent surface water. Caffeine and DEET in surface water were directly attributable to greywater irrigation. Thus the practice of greywater irrigation can act as a source of organic micro-pollutants to shallow groundwater and nearby surface water. The full list of micro-pollutants that could be introduced via greywater and the risk they pose to aquatic ecosystems is not yet known.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-578
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date6 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Science of the Total Environment. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality
control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Science of the Total Environment, 669, (2019)
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.073

© 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Greywater
  • Groundwater
  • Irrigation
  • Organic micro-pollutants
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs)
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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