Generalization and formalization of the US EPA procedure for design of treated wastewater aquifer recharge basins: II. Retrofit of Souhil Wadi (Nabeul, Tunisia) pilot plant

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The ‘Cap Bon’ peninsula in Tunisia suffers from intensive tourist activities, high demographic increase and industrial development. As groundwater had been for a long time the main water source, aquifers had been subject to a severe depletion and seawater intrusion. Despite the measures taken prohibiting new drillings and water carrying by the construction of a waterway linking the region to the north-west region of Tunisia, the problem of water shortage persists. Artificial recharge of groundwater with treated wastewater has been decided as a technique to replenish the region aquifers. A pilot plant was constructed in the early 1980s in Souhil Wadi (Nabeul) area. Many experiments have been carried out on this plant and have led to controversial opinions about its performance and its impact on groundwater contamination. This contribution concerns the application of the procedure that we developed from the generalization and the formalization of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) methodology for the design of treated wastewater aquifer recharge basins. This upgrading procedure implemented in a spreadsheet, has been used to retrofit the Souhil Wadi facility in order to improve its performance. This method highlighted the importance of the safety factor to estimate wastewater infiltration rate from clean water permeability measurements. It has, also, demonstrated the discordance between the initial design parameters of Souhil Wadi facility and their current status as they have changed with time and the infiltration capacity of the basins has been affected by clogging. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that with the current state of clogging of the basins, the design infiltration rate limited by the most restrictive layer (6.1 cm/hr) corresponds to 22% of the surface infiltration rate reached after a drying period of 10 d, which means that we need more basins to absorb the daily loading rate. The design method leads to the construct ion of five basins of 961 m2 (31 × 31 m) each, with one basin being flooded for 3 d with 27 cm of water daily and rested for 10 d. The current status is completely different as only four basins are constructed with 324 m2 each. Many actions in the short, medium and long term have been advised in order to improve the system performance.

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