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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

De facto reuse at the watershed scale: Seasonal changes, population contributions, instream flows and water quality hazards of human pharmaceuticals

Svecova, Helena; Grabic, Roman; Grabicova, Katerina; Stanova, Andrea Vojs; Fedorova, Ganna; Cerveny, Daniel; Turek, Jan; Randak, Tomas; Brooks, Bryan W.


With increasing population growth and climate change, de facto reuse practices are predicted to increase globally. We investigated a longitudinal gradient within the Uhlava River, a representative watershed, where de facto reuse is actively occurring, during Fall and Spring seasons when instream flows vary. We observed human pharmaceutical levels in the river to continuously increase from the mountainous areas upstream to downstream locations and a potable intake location, with the highest concentrations found in small tributaries. Significant relationship was identified between mass flow of pharmaceuticals and the size of human populations contributing to wastewater treatment plant discharges. Advanced ozonation and granular activated carbon filtration effectively removed pharmaceuticals from potable source waters. We observed a higher probability of encountering a number of targeted pharmaceuticals during colder Spring months when stream flows were elevated compared to warmer conditions with lower flows in the Fall despite a dilution paradigm routinely applied for surface water quality assessment and management efforts. Such observations translated to greater water quality hazards during these higher Spring flows. Future water monitoring efforts should account for periods when higher chemical uses occur, particularly in the face of climate change for regions experiencing population growth and de facto reuse. (C) 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Passive sampling; Grab water sampling; Ozonation; GAC filtration; Drinking water supply/treatment; Water reuse

Published in

Environmental Pollution
2021, Volume: 268, article number: 115888

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
    SDG13 Climate action
    SDG3 Good health and well-being

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Water Treatment

    Publication Identifiers


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