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Research to evaluate reclaimed water safety

American Water, the largest water services provider in North America, signed a second contract with The WateReuse Foundation to conduct a joint research project on the survival of Cryptosporidium following various reclaimed water treatment processes. Titled "Determination of Cryptosporidium Occurrence, Infectivity and Genotyping in Wastewater Effluents," this most recent project will examine various conventional and innovative wastewater treatment processes.

"Cryptosporidium is a pathogen of medical and veterinary concern and can cause diarrheal disease when contaminated water is ingested," said project leader Zia Bukhari, Ph.D., senior environmental scientist of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship at American Water.

Numerous outbreaks of human disease have occurred, with the largest to-date reported in Milwaukee in 1993 and another recent outbreak in Ireland. "Water is a precious natural resource, and its scarcity has increased demands for reclaimed water," Bukhari said. "As water providers, we need to better understand the microbial risks associated with reuse practices."

American Water also will team with Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine to use state-of-the-art sample collection, cell-culture, and molecular methods to gain insight into the performance of various wastewater treatment strategies. Total budget for the 24-month project is $633,472, with $340,980 contributed by The WateReuse Foundation and $292,492 of in-kind support from research partners.

"This [research project] should allow the impact of treatment processes, disinfection, storage, and system operation to be modeled in a way that will allow application to a wide range of reclaimed water systems," said Bukhari. The end report will identify cost-effective strategies to reduce the risks of Cryptosporidium infections in reclaimed water systems throughout the country.