Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

DRINKING WATER TREATMENT

Antibiotics in water

Sci. Total Environ. 674, 316–326 (2019)

Antibiotics are commonly used pharmaceuticals, and they have been detected in surface and groundwater. Water treatment plants use several processes to purify water for drinking. Coagulation and flocculation clump together particulates and other contaminants, which can then undergo precipitation to settle them out or flotation so they can be skimmed from the water surface. Next, filtration removes suspended particles, and then chlorine and ultraviolet light are used for disinfection. Treatment plants use various combinations of these basic processes; however, traditional water treatment units were not designed to treat antibiotics.

Credit: Bill Brooks / Alamy Stock Photo

Zi Song and colleagues from Tianjin Chengjian University in China and the University of Technology Sydney in Australia evaluated the effectiveness of two drinking water treatment plants in removing antibiotics from water in Tianjin, China. Of the ten antibiotics tested, removal efficiency varied by type. The plant (B) that showed the more effective antibiotic removal did so predominantly using ultraviolet light with chlorine for disinfection, although ozone pretreatment combined with coagulation precipitation also contributed significantly. The other plant (A) was generally less effective, but, of the processes used, its coagulation flotation step removed the most antibiotics. Both treatment plants also used filtration, which was found to be less effective in antibiotic removal. Even without complete antibiotic removal, the authors’ health risk assessment found them at acceptable levels.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Aimee Guha Roy.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Guha Roy, A. Antibiotics in water. Nat Sustain 2, 356 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0295-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0295-1

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing