Greywater is all domestic wastewater excluding toilet effluents. Detergents contain surfactants, which account for the highest concentration of organic chemicals in average domestic wastewater. Accumulation of surfactants in greywater-irrigated soils was determined in three household gardens. The effect of surfactants on capillary rise in loess and sand was then tested in the range of concentrations found in the garden soils. The capillary rise of freshwater in sieved oven-dried soil mixed with different concentrations of laundry detergent solution (10% w/w moisture content) was determined. In a second setup, the soil was mixed with freshwater and the rising solution contained different concentrations of detergent solution. The introduction of laundry solution to the soils caused a significant decrease in the capillary rise over the range of concentrations that is found in greywater-irrigated soils. The effect was more noticeable in the sand than in the loess. Interestingly, in the second setup, the capillary rise of the laundry solutions in the sand was almost similar to that of freshwater, whereas in the loess the capillary rise was significantly reduced. It is suggested that accumulation of surfactants in the soil might form water repellent soils that have a significant effect on agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.

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