Natural organic matter (NOM) occurs throughout the hydrologic cycle, varying in both amount and character. In this paper, a description of NOM in surface and drinking water, in groundwater and in seawater is presented. Water samples representing these environments were collected and characterized using multiple NOM characterization techniques, including fluorescence excitation emission matrices (F-EEM) and size exclusion liquid chromatography with organic carbon detection (LC-OCD). The results show that the raw surface water as well as the treated water comprises mainly (>70%) of humic substances. The biopolymers, which are more readily biodegradable, contribute up to 2% of the NOM in the raw water but this is completely removed after treatment. For sea water samples, humic substances represent about 50% of the dissolved organic carbon concentration (DOC), while the fraction with size bigger than 20 kDa (biopolymers) represents about 7%. During soil passage, there was preferential removal of non-humic substances (i.e., biopolymers) from wastewater effluent-impacted surface water while the specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA), which reflects the aromatic characteristics of organics in a sample, showed an increasing trend along the depth of the soil column. This is a consequence of the removal of non-humic substances (biopolymers) which results in an increase in aromaticity.

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