- Penetration of viruses through soils is governed by the processes of transport, reversible adsorption, accumulation and inactivation. Until now, it was difficult to decouple the latter two processes and accurately predict viral fate. The present work describes a novel method—tracer studies with a mixture of native and fluorescent-dyed bacteriophages—that facilitates parallel quantification of the two processes. When the native phages are experiencing both accumulation and inactivation, the labeled ones are inactivated already and therefore can only be accumulated. Thus the effect of inactivation is applicable to native bacteriophages only and depletion of phage concentration due to inactivation can be elucidated from a total phage balance. The novel approach is exemplified by batch and column studies of the effects of temperature, pH, and saturation, on inactivation of MS2 bacteriophage. A three-parameter model accounting for inactivation, reversible adsorption (i.e., retardation), and accumulation is implemented.