The use of wastewater to replace other water resources for irrigation is highly dependent on whether the health risk and environmental impacts entailed are acceptable or not. Total count and species of microorganisms found in wastewater vary widely because of climatic conditions, season, population sanitary habits and disease incidence. Salmonella, one of the genera associated with waterborne diseases, lives in the intestine. Thus, it is widely accepted that they have a limited survival period under environmental conditions. Wastewater management practices and the ability of Salmonella to survival under field conditions would determine the health risk associated with its presence in wastewater. Although chlorination is widely used, there are situations in which Salmonella is able to survive the sudden stress imposed by this technique. The aim of this experiment was to contribute to the study of the climatic and soil effects on pathogen survival under agricultural field conditions in order to assess which were the best wastewater management practices from both health and economic points of view. Five pots filled with soil seeded with Medicago sativa and an automatic weather station were used. A secondary effluent was artificially inoculated with Salmonella. In addition, open plates (filled with sterilised soil) and ultraviolet radiation isolated plates (filled with non-sterilised soil) were used. As soil heat emission contributes to the environmental conditions around the bacteria, standardised meteorological temperature data had to be carefully used in the bacterial survival studies under agricultural conditions. Radiation was the main cause of Salmonella mortality as its effect was more important than natural soil bacteria competence. Higher reduction of Salmonella counts could have been associated with longer spring days. Soil was able to effectively remove Salmonella. Subsurface drip irrigation methods could provide an effective tool to prevent health risk associated with wastewater irrigation.

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