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Effects of fluctuations in river water

Abstract

Riverbank filtration is an effective process for removing pathogenic viruses from river water. Despite indications that changing hydraulic conditions during floods can affect the efficacy of riverbank filtration to remove viruses, the impact on advection and dispersion of viruses in the riverbank is not well understood. We investigated the effects of fluctuations in river water level on virus transport during riverbank filtration, considering 3-D transient groundwater flow and virus transport. Using constant removal rates from published field experiments with bacteriophages, removal of viruses with distance from the riverbank was simulated for coarse gravel, fine gravel and fine sandy gravel. Our simulations showed that, in comparison with steady flow conditions, fluctuations in river water level cause viruses to be transported further at higher concentrations into the riverbank. A 1–5 m increase in river water levels led to a 2- to 4-log (log10 reduction in concentration relative to the initial concentration in the river) increase in virus concentration and to up to 30 % shorter travel times. For particular cases during the receding flood, changing groundwater flow conditions caused that pristine groundwater was carried from further inland and that simulated virus concentrations were more diluted in groundwater. Our study suggests that the adverse effect of water level fluctuations on virus transport should be considered in the simulation of safe setback distances for drinking water supplies.

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