Indicator compounds for assessment of wastewater effluent contributions to flow and water quality

Eric R.V. Dickenson, Shane A. Snyder, David L. Sedlak, Jörg E. Drewes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Numerous studies have reported the presence of trace (i.e., ng/L) organic chemicals in municipal wastewater effluents, but it is unclear which compounds will be useful to evaluate the contribution of effluent to overall river flow or the attenuation processes that occur in receiving streams. This paper presents a new approach that uses a suite of common trace organic chemicals as indicators to assess the degree of impact and attenuation of trace organic chemicals in receiving streams. The utility of the approach was validated by effluent monitoring at ten wastewater treatment plants and two effluent-impacted rivers with short retention times (<17 h). A total of 56 compounds were particularly well suited as potential indicators, occurring frequently in effluent samples at concentrations that were at least five times higher than their limit of quantification. Monitoring data from two effluent-impacted rivers indicated that biotransformation was not important for these two river stretches, whereas photolysis attenuation was possibly important for the shallow river. The application of this approach to receiving waters and water reclamation and reuse systems will allow for more effective allocation of resources in future monitoring programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1199-1212
Number of pages14
JournalWater research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Indicator
  • Performance monitoring
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Trace organic chemical
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Water reclamation and reuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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