San Francisco — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $749,631 to the University of California, Riverside to study the human and ecological health impacts of water reuse and conservation practices. University researchers will use the funds to measure levels of contaminants in vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater. Nationally, $3.3 million was awarded to five institutions nationwide for water reuse and conservation research.
“Competing water needs, combined with impacts from prolonged droughts and a changing climate, has increased demands on the finite drinking water resources in the West,” said Tomás Torres, Water Division Director for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “The research UC Riverside will be doing can help advance the role that recycled water plays in meeting our long-term supply needs.”
“Treated municipal wastewater is a valuable source of water that is currently wasted or under-utilized, but may play an important role in overcoming water scarcity in regions such as the American Southwest,” said Jay Gan, a professor of environmental chemistry at UC Riverside. "Our project will evaluate potential transfer of trace organic contaminants from the treated wastewater to food produce when the treated wastewater is reused for irrigation, and assess the potential human health and ecological risks. The findings will be valuable for safe guarding the consumers while promoting sustainability in agriculture and the environment.”
Water conservation practices that promote water reuse are becoming increasingly important, especially in the western United States, where factors such as climate change, extreme drought, and population growth are decreasing water availability. To help promote sustainable water reuse, this research will evaluate how reclaimed water applications such as potable reuse, aquifer recharge, and irrigation can affect public and ecological health.
EPA announced these grants in conjunction with the White House Water Summit, which was held to raise awareness of water issues and potential solutions in the United States, and to catalyze ideas and actions to help build a sustainable and secure water future through innovative science and technology.
The following institutions also received funding through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program:
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nev. to quantify microbial risk and compare the sustainability of indirect and direct potable water reuse systems in the United States.
- Utah State University, Logan, Utah to assess the impacts and benefits of stormwater harvesting using Managed Aquifer Recharge to develop new water supplies in arid western urban ecosystems.
- Water Environment Research Foundation, Alexandria, Va. to actively identify contaminant hotspots, assess the impact of those hotspots on human and ecological health, and quantify the impact of water reuse and management solutions.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, Ill. to develop a new framework to understand how adaptive UV and solar-based disinfection systems reduce the persistence of viral pathogens in wastewater for sustainable reuse.