Faecal coliform removal in stabilisation ponds is highly dependent on shortest water retention times. Tracer tests have been performed in a 3,300 m2 and 1.0 m deep pond, located in Southern France, to measure the retention times and bring light on the main influencing factors and mechanisms. Tracer concentrations were monitored at the outlet and 60 locations within the pond - at the surface, mid depth and the bottom of the water column. Pond water temperatures were measured at different depths and locations, together with pH, DO and redox potential. Wind velocity and rainfall were recorded. Water quality was monitored at the inlet, outlet and within the pond. Water retention times were shown to be strongly affected by weather conditions. Windy periods appeared to favour mixing regardless of the season. In sunny periods of spring and summer, a clear stratification was observed during daytime and vanished gradually during the night, suggesting alternation of mixed and stratified hydrodynamic patterns. This alternation was shown to influence microorganism contents within and at the outlet of the pond. Accurate prediction of shortest water retention times and disinfection performance requires 3D unsteady state fluid dynamic models that are able to take the influence of wind and water temperature distribution into account.

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