Pharmaceuticals, herbicides, and disinfectants in agricultural water sources

Suraj Panthi, Amy R. Sapkota, Greg Raspanti, Sarah M. Allard, Anthony Bui, Hillary A. Craddock, Rianna Murray, Libin Zhu, Cheryl East, Eric Handy, Mary Theresa Callahan, Joseph Haymaker, Prachi Kulkarni, Brienna Anderson, Shani Craighead, Samantha Gartley, Adam Vanore, Walter Q. Betancourt, Rico Duncan, Derek FoustManan Sharma, Shirley A. Micallef, Charles Gerba, Salina Parveen, Fawzy Hashem, Eric May, Kalmia Kniel, Mihai Pop, Sadhana Ravishankar, Amir Sapkota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Agricultural water withdrawals account for the largest proportion of global freshwater use. Increasing municipal water demands and droughts are straining agricultural water supplies. Therefore, alternative solutions to agricultural water crises are urgently needed, including the use of nontraditional water sources such as advanced treated wastewater or reclaimed water, brackish water, return flows, and effluent from produce processing facilities. However, it is critical to ensure that such usage does not compromise soil, crop, and public health. Here, we characterized five different nontraditional water types (n = 357 samples) for the presence of pharmaceuticals, herbicides, and disinfectants using ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry based method (UPLC-MS/MS). We then evaluated whether the levels of these contaminants were influenced by season. The highest level of herbicides (atrazine) was detected in untreated pond water (median concentration 135.9 ng/L). Reclaimed water had the highest levels of antibiotics and stimulants including azithromycin (215 ng/L), sulfamethoxazole (232.1 ng/L), and caffeine (89.4 ng/L). Produce processing plant water also tended to have high levels of atrazine (102.7 ng/L) and ciprofloxacin (80.1 ng/L). In addition, we observed seasonal variability across water types, with the highest atrazine concentrations observed during summer months, while the highest median azithromycin concentrations were observed in reclaimed water during the winter season. Further studies are needed to evaluate if economically feasible on-farm water treatment technologies can effectively remove such contaminants from nontraditional irrigation water sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Atrazine
  • Climate change
  • Herbicides
  • LC-MS/MS
  • LC/MS
  • PPCPs
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Reclaimed water
  • Waste water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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