Safe use of wastewater in agriculture

by André

I just came across with this very interesting and informative video produced by the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development that covers issues with reuse of untreated wastewater for irrigation. More information about this project can be found here. Unsurprisingly, the case-studies (Lima, Jakarta and Tehran) presented in the movie share many characteristics with the situation in Maputo, where farmers use the effluent of the wastewater treatment plant that was studied by Irene Caltran in 2014 – make sure to check her report.

The project had as main objective build capacity within the countries to allow safe water reclamation while protecting the farmers’ livelihoods, the farmers and end-users health and the environment. The authors argue that usually farmers and end-users are not aware of the impact of irrigating with untreated wastewater for the health and environment. Typically, direct wastewater reuse is implemented because of water scarcity (wastewater is only source), economics (for example, well water would cost electricity and piping systems would have to be installed), presence of nutrients in the water (less use of fertilizer). A very interesting point was that water reclamation guarantees that population has access to diverse and nutritious food throughout the years at stable prices.

Finally, the authors conclude that wastewater can be used more safely in agriculture if we continue to actively address the issue and support governments and raise public awareness about safe practices. In particular, through the implementation of affordable good practices, for example, washing produces with fresh water, improved irrigation methods and limiting the type pf crops grown with wastewater.

Much of this is also true for the case of Maputo and in-line with the objectives of our project. For the case of Maputo, a similar movie was produced by UEM and I discussed it before.

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