Antibiotic Concentrations Decrease during Wastewater Treatment but Persist at Low Levels in Reclaimed Water. Academic Article uri icon


  • Reclaimed water has emerged as a potential irrigation solution to freshwater shortages. However, limited data exist on the persistence of antibiotics in reclaimed water used for irrigation. Therefore, we examined the fate of nine commonly-used antibiotics (ampicillin, azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, linezolid, oxacillin, oxolinic acid, penicillin G, pipemidic acid, and tetracycline) in differentially treated wastewater and reclaimed water from two U.S. regions. We collected 72 samples from two Mid-Atlantic and two Midwest treatment plants, as well as one Mid-Atlantic spray irrigation site. Antibiotic concentrations were measured using liquid-chromatography- tandem mass spectrometry. Data were analyzed using Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon tests and Kruskal Wallis tests. Overall, antibiotic concentrations in effluent samples were lower than that of influent samples. Mid-Atlantic plants had similar influent but lower effluent antibiotic concentrations compared to Midwest plants. Azithromycin was detected at the highest concentrations (of all antibiotics) in influent and effluent samples from both regions. For most antibiotics, transport from the treatment plant to the irrigation site resulted in no changes in antibiotic concentrations, and UV treatment at the irrigation site had no effect on antibiotic concentrations in reclaimed water. Our findings show that low-level antibiotic concentrations persist in reclaimed water used for irrigation; however, the public health implications are unclear at this time.

published proceedings

  • Int J Environ Res Public Health

altmetric score

  • 7

author list (cited authors)

  • Kulkarni, P., Olson, N. D., Raspanti, G. A., Rosenberg Goldstein, R. E., Gibbs, S. G., Sapkota, A., & Sapkota, A. R.

citation count

  • 51

complete list of authors

  • Kulkarni, Prachi||Olson, Nathan D||Raspanti, Greg A||Rosenberg Goldstein, Rachel E||Gibbs, Shawn G||Sapkota, Amir||Sapkota, Amy R

publication date

  • June 2017