Wastewater-derived contaminants of emerging concern: Concentrations in soil solution under simulated irrigation scenarios

Evyatar Ben Mordechay*, Moshe Shenker, Jorge Tarchitzky, Vered Mordehay, Yoni Elisar, Yehoshua Maor, Jose Julio Ortega-Calvo, Dieter Hennecke, Tamara Polubesova, Benny Chefetz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In response to declineing natural water sources, treated wastewater has been introduced into the water cycle as a new water source for irrigation. However, this practice exposes the agricultural environment to various contaminants of emerging concern. To better understand their fate in the soil and to effectively predict their bioavailability for plant uptake, there is a need to quantify their concentrations in soil solutions. In this study, we examined the concentrations of treated wastewater-derived ​contaminants of emerging concern in soil solutions under three scenarios: (1) shifting from irrigation with freshwater to treated wastewater (FW→TWW scenario), (2) long-term continuous irrigation with treated wastewater (TWW→TWW scenario), and (3) prolonged irrigation with treated wastewater followed by freshwater (TWW→FW scenario). Contaminants of emerging concern including carbamazepine, 1H-benzotriazole, lamotrigine, venlafaxine, and thiabendazole were ubiquitous in the treated wastewater (mean concentrations of 125, 945, 180, 3630, and 90 ​ng/L, respectively) and irrigated soils. Interestingly, their concentrations in the soil solutions were different (higher or lower) from the corresponding concentrations in the irrigation water. In both the freshwater to wastewater (FW→TWW) and treated wastewater to freshwater (TWW→FW) irrigation scenarios, lower contaminant concentrations were observed in soil solutions compared to the prolong treated wastewater irrigation scenario (TWW→TWW), indicating that a steady state condition was not achieved after a single irrigation season. For example, the concentrations of 1H-benzotriazole in Nir Oz soil solutions were 638, 310, and 1577 ​ng/L for the three irrigation scenarios, respectively. Moreover, the ​contaminants concentrations in soil solutions were slightly lower in the TWW→FW irrigation scenario compared to the TWW→TWW scenario. Our data suggest that rain-fed crops are also exposed to treated wastewater-derived contaminants of emerging concern released from the adsorbed phase into the soil solution. The readily-available contaminants concentration in soil solution depends on the physicochemical properties of the molecule, the water type used for irrigation and the irrigation history, the contaminant concentration in the irrigation water, and soil characteristics.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number100036
JournalSoil and Environmental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

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  • Distribution coefficient
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Plant uptake
  • Reclaimed wastewater
  • Soil pore water


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