Pathogen reduction requirements for direct potable reuse in Antarctica: Evaluating human health risks in small communities

S. Fiona Barker, Michael Packer, Peter J. Scales, Stephen Gray, Ian Snape, Andrew J. Hamilton

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Small, remote communities often have limited access to energy and water. Direct potable reuse of treated wastewater has recently gained attention as a potential solution for water-stressed regions, but requires further evaluation specific to small communities. The required pathogen reduction needed for safe implementation of direct potable reuse of treated sewage is an important consideration but these are typically quantified for larger communities and cities. A quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) was conducted, using norovirus, giardia and Campylobacter as reference pathogens, to determine the level of treatment required to meet the tolerable annual disease burden of 10-6 DALYs per person per year, using Davis Station in Antarctica as an example of a small remote community. Two scenarios were compared: published municipal sewage pathogen loads and estimated pathogen loads during a gastroenteritis outbreak. For the municipal sewage scenario, estimated required log10 reductions were 6.9, 8.0 and 7.4 for norovirus, giardia and Campylobacter respectively, while for the outbreak scenario the values were 12.1, 10.4 and 12.3 (95th percentiles). Pathogen concentrations are higher under outbreak conditions as a function of the relatively greater degree of contact between community members in a small population, compared with interactions in a large city, resulting in a higher proportion of the population being at risk of infection and illness. While the estimates of outbreak conditions may overestimate sewage concentration to some degree, the results suggest that additional treatment barriers would be required to achieve regulatory compliance for safe drinking water in small communities. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-733
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Campylobacter
  • Drinking water
  • Giardia
  • norovirus
  • quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA)
  • sewage

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