Personal Care Products in Recycled Water?


Recycled irrigation water used for golf courses, parks, and other landscapes may contain small amounts pharmaceutical and personal care products. A two-year, field study demonstrated the ability of golf course fairway grasses to breakdown contaminants and prevents them from reaching groundwater.

The scarcity of potable water in arid and semiarid environments has led to the wider use of recycled water for irrigating golf courses, parks, and other landscape areas. One concern using recycled water for irrigation has been the presence of pharmaceutical and personal care products in water that may percolate below the root zone of grasses; however, very few multiyear field studies are available in the scientific literature.


Recycled wastewater from treatment facilities contains a wide range of pharmaceutical and personal care products. Although concentrations are extremely low, typically in parts per trillion, researchers investigated the fate of products found in recycled irrigation water applied to golf course fairways.

Recently, the Journal of Environmental Quality published a two-year field study that assessed 13 pharmaceutical products in recycled irrigation water applied to the fairways of four golf courses in the southwestern United States. The project, initiated by the Northern California Golf Association and partially funded by the USGA, demonstrates the ability of golf course grasses to breakdown an array of pharmaceutical and personal care products.

The golf course sites varied by climate and soil type but were similar regarding turfgrass management. The results showed the presence of at least one pharmaceutical compound in nearly all samples collected, although concentrations were substantially lower after moving through the turf and soil. The percent reduction for products in drainage water was 100% in 22 of 52 cases, 98 to 100% in 27 of 52 cases, and 73 to 94% in 3 of 52 cases (a case defined as a specific compound measured at a specific site). Three of the 13 compounds tested were the most commonly found in drainage water, representing nearly 80% of all reportable detections. The amount migrating below the root zone was less than 0.0036 ounces per acre (<250 mg ha−1) for all compounds. This is roughly a single pill spread out over an entire football field. The field studies demonstrate the ability of golf course


fairway grasses to breakdown contaminants and prevent them from reaching groundwater.

Field-Scale Monitoring of Pharmaceutical Compounds Applied to Active Golf Courses by Recycled Water

Attenuation of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine-disrupting compounds by golf courses using reuse water

Leaching of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Turfgrass Soils during Recycled Water Irrigation

Using recycled water at your course: Assessing the fate of personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and endocrine disrupting compounds

Fate and transport of thirteen pharmaceutical and personal care products in a controlled irrigated turfgrass system

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by Water Environment Research Foundation and the Water Reuse Research Foundation, with additional funding provided by 28 water or sanitation agencies, and other interested agencies or organizations, including the USGA.


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