Nontraditional Irrigation Water Sources

There are significant knowledge gaps concerning the availability (quantity and quality) of nontraditional irrigation water sources, such as reused water. To address these gaps, we are  characterizing quantity, through the development of a user-friendly spatial platform of nontraditional irrigation water sources, as well as quality, utilizing cutting-edge analytical technologies to comprehensively characterize these water sources. See our new term sheet that combines definitions from U.S. federal agencies and national organizations related to water used in agriculture.

Goal: To conduct the most comprehensive chemical, microbial, physical and geographic characterization of nontraditional irrigation water sources that has ever been performed in the U.S.


Geographic Information Systems Research and Analysis

We are compiling local and regional data on the sources and quantities of reusable water in the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest (e.g., publically owned wastewater treatment facilities and data on other potential nontraditional water sources) and linking these data as attributes on a user-friendly geographical information system (GIS) platform. We are linking these sources to agricultural point-of-use sites, factoring in proximity and ease of access. We are also classifying the reusable water based on quantity and chemical, microbial and physical quality.


Examples of Achievements to Date:

17 field sites sampled in the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest

4,896 water samples collected, processed, analyzed for bacterial indicators, pathogens and chemical constituents, and sent for 16S rRNAsequencing and/or metagenomicshotgun sequencing

460 Salmonella isolates Whole Genome Sequenced by FDA GenomeTrakrProgram 


Water Quality Characterization

We are conducting a comprehensive characterization of the microbial, chemical and physical quality of nontraditional irrigation water sources that require further characterization. In California and Arizona these include return flows, saline waters, membrane filter retentate, collected rainfall, tile drainage waters (CA only) and recycled water (CA only). In Maryland and Delaware, our focus is on recycled water, brackish water and river water. Sampling at all sites will take place throughout the year. All samples are analyzed for the following in individual collaborator’s labs using standardized, harmonized, culture-based and culture-independent protocols: indicator microorganisms (Escherichia coli, Enterococcus), select bacterial, viral and protozoal pathogens (e.g. Salmonella species, Listeria spp., enterohemorrhagic E. coli, norovirus, hepatitis A virus, reovirus, adenovirus, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora), and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. All samples are analyzed in the CONSERVE Laboratory Core for 1) an extensive suite of chemical contaminants using LC-MS/MS; and 2) total bacterial, viral (including bacteriophages), fungal and protozoal diversity using 16S rRNA and metagenomic sequencing.