With food demand and water scarcity on the uptick, it's time to stop treating wastewater like garbage and instead manage it as a resource that can be used to grow crops and help address water scarcity in agriculture.
Properly managed, wastewater can be used safely to support crop production — directly through irrigation or indirectly by recharging aquifers — but doing so requires diligent management of health risks through adequate treatment or appropriate use.
How countries are approaching this challenge and the latest trends in the use of wastewater in agriculture production will be the focus of discussions by a group of experts taking place today in Berlin during the annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (19-21 January). The event has been convened by FAO along with the United Nations University, Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Leibniz Research Alliance Food and Nutrition.
"Although more detailed data on the practice is lacking, we can say that, globally, only a small proportion of treated wastewater is being used for agriculture, most of it municipal wastewater. But increasing numbers of countries — Egypt, Jordan,, Mexico, Spain and the United States, for example — have been exploring the possibilities as they wrestle with mounting water scarcity," says Marlos De Souza, a senior officer with FAO's Land and Water Division.
"So far, the reuse of wastewater for irrigation has been most successful near cities, where it is widely available and usually free-of-charge or at low cost, and where there is a market for agricultural produce, including non-food crops. But the practice can be used in rural areas as well — indeed it has long been employed by many smallholder farmers," notes De Souza.
The important thing is that wastewater be managed adequately and safely used in a way that is appropriate to local conditions, he adds.
To read the full story, visit the FAO website.
Photo courtesy: FAO