Potential indicators of virus transport and removal during soil aquifer treatment of treated wastewater effluent

Christina M. Morrison, Walter Q. Betancourt, Daniel R. Quintanar, Gerardo U. Lopez, Ian L. Pepper, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Increased water demands have led to a notable interest in the use of treated wastewater for reuse. Typically, this results from the implementation of advanced treatment of final effluent from wastewater treatment plants prior to reuse for potable or non-potable purposes. Soil aquifer treatment (SAT) is a natural treatment process in which water from sources of varying quality is infiltrated into the soil to further improve its quality. The goal of this study was to determine the log10 reduction values (LRVs) of viruses naturally present in treated effluent and evaluate two potential indicators of virus removal and transport, pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV) and crAssphage, during SAT of treated effluent. Groundwater was sampled at three wells with different attributes within the Sweetwater Recharge Facility (SWRF) in Tucson, AZ. These sites vary greatly in operational parameters such as effluent infiltration rates and wetting/drying cycles, which may influence virus removal efficiency. Detection of adenovirus, enterovirus, PMMoV, and crAssphage were determined by qPCR/RT-qPCR and log10 reduction values (LRVs) were determined. PMMoV and crAssphage were detected in groundwater associated with a set of recharge basins that exhibited shorter wetting/drying cycles and faster infiltration rates. LRVs for crAssphage and PMMoV at this site ranged from 3.9 to 5.8, respectively. Moreover, PMMoV was detected downflow of the SAT sites, indicating the potential degradation of microbial groundwater quality in the region surrounding managed aquifer recharge facilities. Overall, PMMoV and crAssphage showed potential as conservative process indicators of virus removal during SAT, particularly for attribution of LRV credits. Moreover, the detection of these viruses indicated the potential influence of wetting/drying cycles on virus removal by SAT, a parameter that has not yet been studied with respect to biological contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115812
JournalWater research
StatePublished - Jun 15 2020


  • Groundwater
  • Recharge
  • Soil aquifer treatment
  • Virus removal
  • Wastewater reuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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