Water Transport, Retention, and Survival of Escherichia coli in Unsaturated Porous Media: A Comprehensive Review of Processes, Models, and Factors

Title:Water Transport, Retention, and Survival of Escherichia coli in Unsaturated Porous Media: A Comprehensive Review of Processes, Models, and Factors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
Authors:Emma Engström, Roger Thunvik, Robinah Kulabako, Berit Balfors
Journal Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Abstract:The vadose zone can function as both a filter and a passage for bacteria. This review evaluates when and why either effect will apply based on available literature. It summarizes theories and experimental research that address the related, underlying bacterial attenuation processes, the applied macro-scale modeling approaches, and the influencing factors – including the cell, soil, solution and system characteristics. Results point to that the relative importance of each removal mechanism depends on the moisture content and the solution ionic strength. The limitations of available modeling approaches are discussed. It remains unclear in which contexts these are reliable for predictions. The temporal first-order kinetic Escherichia coli (E. coli) removal coefficient ranges three orders of magnitude, from 10−4 to 10−1/min. Results suggest that this rate depends on the pore-water velocity. Spatial filtration of E. coli increases with slower flow and higher collector surface heterogeneity. It could be insignificant in the case of heavy and sudden infiltration and subsequent transport in preferential flow paths, induced, for example, by plant roots or cracks in clayey soils. Future research thus needs to address transport as an effect of extreme weather events such as droughts and subsequent floods.