Two different irrigation systems, subsurface drip irrigation and furrow irrigation, are tested to investigate the level of viral contamination and survival when tertiary effluent is used in arid and semi-arid regions. The effluent was injected with bacteriophages of PRD1 and MS2. A greater number of PRD1 and MS2 were recovered from the lettuce in the subsurface drip-irrigated plots as compared to those in the furrow-irrigated plots. Shallow drip tape installation and preferential water paths through cracks on the soil surface appeared to be the main causes of high viral contamination in subsurface drip irrigation plots, which led to the direct contact of the lettuce stems with the irrigation water which penetrated the soil surface. The water use efficiency of the subsurface drip irrigation system was higher than that of the furrow irrigation system. Thus, subsurface drip irrigation is an efficient irrigation method for vegetable crops in arid and semi-arid regions if viral contamination can be reduced. Deeper installation of drip tapes, frequent irrigations, and timely harvests based on cumulative heat units may further reduce health risks by ensuring viral die-off under various field conditions.

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