Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture: Good Practice Examples

Population growth, rapid urbanisation, more water intense consumption patterns and climate change are intensifying the pressure on freshwater resources. The increasing scarcity of water, combined with other factors such as energy and fertilizers, is driving millions of farmers and other entrepreneurs to make use of wastewater. Wastewater reuse is an excellent example that naturally explains the importance of integrated management of water, soil and waste, which we define as the Nexus approach. The process begins in the waste sector, but the selection of the correct management model can make it relevant and important to the water and soil as well. Over 20 million hectares of land are currently known to be irrigated with wastewater. This is interesting, but the alarming fact is that a greater percentage of this practice is not based on any scientific criterion that ensures the “safe use” of wastewater. In order to address the technical, institutional, and policy challenges of safe water reuse, developing countries and countries in transition need clear institutional arrangements and more skilled human resources, with a sound understanding of the opportunities and potential risks of wastewater use.

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