Virus in Groundwater: Characterization of transport mechanisms and impacts on an agricultural area in Uruguay

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Pablo Andrés Gamazo, Rodney Colina, Matias Victoria, Elena Alvareda, Luciana Burutaran, Julian Ramos, Fernando Lopez and Joan Soler, University of the Republic Uruguay, Montevideo, Uruguay
In many areas of Uruguay groundwater is the only source of water for human consumption and for industrial-agricultural economic activities. Traditionally considered as a safe source, due to the “natural filter” that occurs in porous media, groundwater is commonly used without any treatment.

The Uruguayan law requires bacteriological analysis for most water uses, but virological analyses are not mentioned in the legislation. In the Salto district, where groundwater is used for human consumption and for agricultural activities, bacterial contamination has been detected in several wells but no viruses analysis have been performed.

The Republic University (UDELAR), with the support of the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII), is studying the incidence of virus in groundwater on an intensive agriculture area of the Salto district. In this area water is pumped from the “Salto Aquifer”, a free sedimentary aquifer. Below this sedimentary deposit is the “Arapey” basaltic formation, which is also exploited for water productions on its fractured zones.

A screening campaign has been performed searching for bacterial and viral contamination. Total and fecal coliforms have been found on several wells and Rotavirus and Adenovirus have been detected. A subgroup of the screening wells has been selected for an annual survey. On this subgroup, besides bacteria and viruses analysis, a standard physical and chemical characterization was performed. Results show a significant seasonal variation on microbiological contamination.

In addition to field studies, rotavirus circulation experiments on columns are being performed. The objective of this experiments is to determinate the parameters that control virus transport in porous media.

The results of the study are expected to provide an insight into the impacts of groundwater on Salto’s viral gastroenterocolitis outbreaks.