Degraded water reuse: An overview

G. A. O'Connor, H. A. Elliott, R. K. Bastian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (SciVal)


Communities around the world face increasingly severe fresh water supply shortages, largely due to expanding populations and associated food supply, economic development, and health issues. Intentional reuse of degraded waters (e.g., wastewater effluents, irrigation return flows, concentrated animal feeding operations [CAFO] effluents, stormwater, and graywater) as substitutes for fresh waters could be one solution to the challenge. We describe the various degraded water types and reuse options and limitations and restrictions to their use. Emphasis is given to reuse scenarios involving degraded water applications to soil. The potential for degraded water reuse is enormous, but significant barriers exist to widespread adoption. Barriers include research questions (some addressable by traditional soil science approaches, but others requiring novel techniques and advanced instrumentation), the lack of unifying national regulations, and public acceptance. Educational programs, based on hard science developed from long-term field studies, are imperative to convince the public and elected officials of the wisdom and safety of reusing degraded waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S157-S168
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue numberSUPPL. 5
StatePublished - Sep 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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