Fate of indicator microorganisms, giardia and cryptosporidium in subsurface flow constructed wetlands

Jeanette A. Thurston, Charles P. Gerba, Kennith E. Foster, Martin M. Karpiscak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Limited information is available on the ability of subsurface flow wetlands to remove enteric pathogens. Two multi-species wetlands, one receiving secondary sewage effluent and the other potable (disinfected) groundwater were studied from February 1995 to August 1996, at the Pima County Constructed Ecosystems Research Facility in Tucson, Arizona. Each wetland had a retention time of approximately 4 days. The objectives of this study were (1) to evaluate the ability of multi-species subsurface wetlands to physically remove Giardia cysts; Cryptosporidium oocysts, total and fecal coliforms, and coliphages; and (2) to determine the likely impact of local wildlife on the occurrence of these indicators and pathogens. In the wetland receiving secondary sewage effluent, total coliforms were reduced by an average of 98.8% and fecal coliforms by 98.2%. Coliphage were reduced by an average of 95.2%. Both Giardia cysts and Cryptosporidium oocysts were reduced by an average of 87.8 and 64.2%, respectively. In the wetland receiving disinfected groundwater, an average of 1.3×102 total coliforms/100mL and 22.3 fecal coliforms/100mL were most likely contributed by both flora and fauna. No parasites or coliphages were detected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1547-1551
Number of pages5
JournalWater research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Coliforms
  • Coliphage
  • Constructed wetlands
  • Giardia
  • Pathogens
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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