Pathogen transport in groundwater systems: Contrasts with traditional solute transport

Hydrogeology Journal
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Abstract

Water quality affects many aspects of water availability, from precluding use to societal perceptions of fit-for-purpose. Pathogen source and transport processes are drivers of water quality because they have been responsible for numerous outbreaks resulting in large economic losses due to illness and, in some cases, loss of life. Outbreaks result from very small exposure (e.g., less than 20 viruses) from very strong sources (e.g., trillions of viruses shed by a single infected individual). Thus, unlike solute contaminants, an acute exposure to a very small amount of contaminated water can cause immediate adverse health effects. Similarly, pathogens are larger than solutes. Thus, interactions with surfaces and settling become important even as processes important for solutes such as diffusion become less important. These differences are articulated in “Colloid Filtration Theory”, a separate branch of pore-scale transport. Consequently, understanding pathogen processes requires changes in how groundwater systems are typically characterized, where the focus is on the leading edges of plumes and preferential flow paths, even if such features move only a very small fraction of the aquifer flow. Moreover, the relatively short survival times of pathogens in the subsurface require greater attention to very fast (<10 year) flow paths. By better understanding the differences between pathogen and solute transport mechanisms discussed here, a more encompassing view of water quality and source water protection is attained. With this more holistic view and theoretical understanding, better evaluations can be made regarding drinking water vulnerability and the relation between groundwater and human health.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Pathogen transport in groundwater systems: Contrasts with traditional solute transport
Series title Hydrogeology Journal
DOI 10.1007/s10040-016-1502-z
Volume 25
Issue 4
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Wisconsin Water Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 921
Last page 930