Irrigated greywater in an urban sub-division as a potential source of metals to soil, groundwater and surface water

R. D. R. Turner, Michael St. J. Warne, L. A. Dawes, S. Vardy, G. D. Will

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    Increased water demands in dry countries such as Australia, have led to increased adoption of various water reuse practices. Irrigation of greywater (all water discharged from the bathrooms, laundry and kitchen apart from toilet waste) is seen as a potential means of easing water demands; however, there is limited knowledge of how greywater irrigation impacts terrestrial and aquatic environments. This study compared four greywater irrigated residential lots to adjacent non-irrigated lots that acted as controls. Accumulation and potential impacts of metals in soil, groundwater and surface water, as a result of greywater irrigation, were assessed by comparing measured concentrations to national and international guidelines. Greywater increased concentrations of some metals in irrigated soil and resulted in As, B, Cr and Cu exceeding guidelines after only four years of irrigation. Movement of metals from the irrigation areas resulted in metal concentrations in groundwater (Al, As, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni and Zn) and surface water (Cu, Fe and Zn) exceeding environmental quality guidelines again within four years. These results are unlikely to be universally applicable but indicate the need to consider metals in greywater in order to minimize potential adverse environmental effects from greywater irrigation.

    NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Environmental Management. 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 Journal of Environmental Management, 183, 3 (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.09.021
    © 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)806-817
    JournalJournal of Environmental Management
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2016

    Bibliographical note

    Due to publisher policy, the full text is not available on the repository until the 19th of September 2017.


    • Greywater
    • Groundwater
    • Irrigation
    • Metals
    • Soil
    • Water reuse


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