Fate of contaminants of emerging concern in the reclaimed wastewater-soil-plant continuum

Evyatar Ben Mordechay, Vered Mordehay, Jorge Tarchitzky, Benny Chefetz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Reclaimed wastewater irrigation, a common agricultural practice in water-scarce regions, chronically exposes the agricultural environment to a wide range of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) including pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Here we provide new data and insights into the processes governing the translocation of CECs in the irrigation water-soil-plant continuum based on a comprehensive dataset from 445 commercial fields irrigated with reclaimed wastewater. We report on CEC exposures in irrigation water, soils, and edible produce (leafy greens, carrots, potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and citrus fruits). Our data show that CEC concentrations in irrigation water and their physiochemical properties (mainly charge and lipophilicity) are the main factors governing their translocation and accumulation in the soil-plant continuum. CECs exhibiting the highest detection frequency in plants (lamotrigine, venlafaxine, and carbamazepine) showed a reduction in their leaf accumulation factor with increasing soil organic matter content. The higher soil organic matter likely reduced the available CEC concentration in the soil solution due to soil-CEC interactions, leading to reduced uptake. Interestingly, the concentration of carbamazepine in the leaves showed a saturation-like trend when plotted against its concentration in the soils. This probably resulted from steady-state conditions when uptake equals in-planta decomposition. Our data indicate that due to continuous reclaimed wastewater irrigation, the soil acts as a sink for CECs. CECs in the soil reservoir can be desorbed into the soil solution during the rainy season and be taken up by rain-fed crops.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number153574
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 20 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by the Israel Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development ( 821-0142-13 ) and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs , through a grant (activity 29142 ) to the Dutch Friends of the Hebrew University (NVHU). We also want to thank Anna Einhoren, Simha Rorlik, Shira Goldenberg, Yifat Zvuluni, and Nir Ben-Porat for helping with the sampling and sample preparation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


  • Bioaccumulation
  • Bioconcentration
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Soil organic matter
  • Translocation
  • Agricultural Irrigation/methods
  • Soil Pollutants/analysis
  • Soil
  • Crops, Agricultural
  • Waste Water/chemistry


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