Given the availability of technological solutions and guidelines for safe drinking water, direct potable reuse of reclaimed water has become a promising option to overcome severe lack of potable water in arid regions. However, the growing awareness of the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) in corresponding raw wastes has led to new safety concerns. This study investigated the fate of ARB and intracellular and extracellular ARG after each treatment step of an advanced water treatment facility in Windhoek, Namibia. The New Goreangab Water Reclamation Plant (NGWRP) produces drinking water from domestic secondary wastewater treatment plant effluent and directly provides for roughly a quarter of Windhoek's potable water demand. Procedures to study resistance determinants were based on both, molecular biology and culture-based microbiological methods. TaqMan real-time PCR was employed to detect and quantify intracellular resistance genes sul1, ermB, vanA, nptII and nptIII as well as extracellular resistance gene sul1. The NGWRP reduced the amount of both culturable bacterial indicators as well as the resistance genes to levels below the limit of detection in the final product. The main ozonation and the ultrafiltration had the highest removal efficiencies on both resistance determinants.
The final product contained none of the antibiotic resistance genes investigated.
A subsequent series of water treatment steps can decrease antibiotic resistance genes to below LOD.
All steps in the treatment train decreased the abundance of the sul1 resistance gene except for the pre-ozonation and the biological activated carbon.
In the final product, extracellular and intracellular sul1 resistance genes were below LOD.