Reuse of treated wastewater in irrigation is gaining recognition as a vital element in the water resources management plan of developing countries, especially those situated in arid and semi-arid regions. An understanding of the transport of residual pollutants from treated wastewater, such as bacteria, in soil as a result of irrigation is critical to assessing health risks and the possible contamination of limited groundwater resources. In this work, retention of E. coli is evaluated for a soil that is irrigated by treated wastewater for growth of non-food crops near Egypt's Red Sea coast. In particular, the effects of soil organic fraction (SOF) and hydraulic loading rate (HLR) were investigated in laboratory soil columns. The matrix of experiments included three HLRs and three SOFs. The retention of bacteria by adsorption was observed at HLRs of 5 and 13 cm/h, with the magnitude of the adsorption increasing proportionally to the SOF. The impact of SOF was greater for the lower HLR. At the lowest HLR investigated (5 cm/h), filtration was also observed for the two higher SOFs (0.674 and 2.04 per cent). At a high HLR (66 cm/h) simulating flood irrigation, retention of bacteria was minimal regardless of the SOF. Since the bacterial solution is applied to a dry soil column to simulate field conditions, E. coli breakthrough after two pore volumes of throughput (vs. one) provided a meaningful comparison of bacterial retention as a function of HLR and SOF.

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