Greywater reuse for irrigation: Effect on soil properties Academic Article uri icon


  • A controlled study of the effect of greywater (GW) irrigation on soil properties was conducted. Containers of sand, loam and loess soils were planted with lettuce, and irrigated with fresh water, raw artificial GW or treated artificial GW. Greywater was treated using a recirculating vertical-flow constructed wetland. Soil samples were collected every 10 days for the 40-day duration of the study, and plant growth was measured. Soils were analysed for physicochemical and biological parameters to determine changes caused by the different treatments. It was demonstrated that raw artificial GW significantly increased the development of hydrophobicity in the sand and loam soils, as determined by water droplet penetration time. No significant changes were observed for the loess soil under all treatments. Observed hydrophobicity was correlated with increased oil and grease and surfactant concentrations in the soil. Zeta (ζ) potential of the soils was measured to determine changes in the soil particle surface properties as a result of GW irrigation. A significant change in ζ-potential (less negative) was observed in the raw artificial GW-irrigated sand, whereas no difference was observed in the loam or loess. Soils irrigated with fresh water or treated GW exhibited no increase in hydrophobicity. Fecal coliform bacteria were absent or < 10 CFU g− 1 in soils irrigated with fresh water or treated GW, but at least 1 order of magnitude higher in raw artificial GW irrigated soils. Only in the last sampling event and only for the loess soil was plant growth significantly higher for fresh water irrigated vs. raw or treated GW irrigated soils. This study demonstrates that treated GW can be effectively irrigated without detrimental effects on soil or plant growth; however, raw GW may significantly change soil properties that can impact the movement of water in soil and the transport of contaminants in the vadose zone.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010