Human and Ecological Health Impacts Associated with Water Reuse and Conservation Practices

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Human and Ecological Health Impacts Associated with Water Reuse and Conservation Practices

Evidence of estrogenic endocrine disruption has been identified as a basin-wide issue in the Potomac River. Sources of estrogenicity at present have been attributed to agricultural land-use and point sources including waste water treatment plants. The net contribution of these sources has not been evaluated, neither has there been a collective effort to determine impacts of other water reuse and conservation practices. The work here is a collaborative effort tailored to systematically elucidate the impact of advanced wastewater reclamation, large scale stormwater harvesting and reuse, and focused agricultural stormwater best management practices on estrogenicity and other water quality parameters in the Potomac River. Collaborators include the University of Maryland; University of SUNY, Buffalo; Virginia Technical Institute; Sawyer and Hazen; and the D.C. Water Authority. The novel approach undertaken in this research combines a suite of state-of-the-art techniques to actively identify contaminant hot spots (EDCs and related biological activity, nutrients), assess the impact of those hot spots on human and ecological health endpoints (including drinking water sources and sensitive ecological areas), and quantify the impact of reuse and management solutions on these endpoints.


  1. Use multiple analytical, biological activity, isotopic, and fluorescence tracers to identify and track spatial and temporal variability in "hot spots" of contaminant sources at a watershed scale.
  2. Use case studies to examine impacts of advanced wastewater reclamation, stormwater reuse, and agricultural best management practices on source controls of contaminants
Bioluminescent yeast estrogen screen

A USGS scientist prepares samples for the determination of estrogen equivalents using bioluminescent yeast estrogen screen.

(Credit: Luke R. Iwanowicz, USGS Fish Health Laboratory. Public domain.)