Using soil biomass as an indicator for the biological removal of effluent-derived organic carbon during soil infiltration

Tanja Rauch-Williams, Jörg E. Drewes

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71 Scopus citations


This study investigates the relationship between soil biomass and organic carbon removal during the infiltration of conventionally treated effluents used for groundwater recharge during soil-aquifer treatment (SAT). Investigations were conducted on samples collected from full-scale SAT sites, revealing a positive correlation between biodegradable organic carbon (BOC) concentrations in the recharged effluents and total viable soil biomass concentrations in the infiltration zone of soil samples collected from respective recharge basins. Findings of this study suggest that BOC limits soil biomass growth and was able to support a steady-state concentration of viable soil biomass that is characteristic to BOC concentrations introduced with the recharged effluents. All investigated sites indicate that BOC is primarily removed within 30 cm soil depth leading to a significant increase in soil biomass levels (measured as substrate induced respiration (SIR), total viable biomass, and dehydrogenase activity (DHA)). Controlled biological column studies revealed that the primary components of BOC in domestic effluents are organic colloids. Findings of this study support that hydrophobic acids, commonly believed to be recalcitrant, may also be attenuated by biological processes during soil infiltration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-968
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Artificial recharge
  • Biodegradable organic carbon (BOC)
  • Effluent organic matter
  • Removal mechanisms
  • Soil aquifer treatment
  • Soil biomass
  • Soil infiltration


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