Comparing microfiltration-reverse osmosis and soil-aquifer treatment for indirect potable reuse of water

Jörg E. Drewes, Martin Reinhard, Peter Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Microfiltration (MF) followed by reverse osmosis (RO) and soil-aquifer treatment (SAT) are the two principal technologies considered for indirect potable reuse of wastewater. This study, conducted at the Northwest Water Reclamation Plant, Mesa (Arizona), evaluated MF/RO and SAT (>6 months residence time) treated tertiary effluent with respect to organics removal. Effluent organic matter was characterized as total organic carbon (TOC), by UV absorbance (UVA), solid-state carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and size exclusion chromatography. Several trace organic micropollutants, including EDTA, NTA, and alkylphenolethoxylate residues, were analyzed by GC/MS. The study revealed that final TOC concentrations of MF/RO and SAT are 0.3 and 1.0mgl-1, respectively. Based on the characterization techniques used, the character of bulk organics present in final SAT water resembles the character of natural organic matter present in drinking water. Depending on the molecular weight cut-off, RO membranes can efficiently reject high molecular weight organic matter (characterized as humic and fulvic acids). However, approximately 40-50 percent of the remaining TOC in permeates consists of low molecular weight acids and neutrals representing a molecular weight range of ∼500Da and less. In the SAT treated effluent, EDTA and APECs were removed to approximately 4.3 and 0.54μg/l, respectively, but were below the detection limit in the MF/RO treated effluent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3612-3621
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Issue number15
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Indirect potable reuse
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Soil-aquifer treatment
  • Water reuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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