New book released on safe use of wastewater in agriculture

The book includes 17 case studies selected from Latin America, Asia, and Africa

The United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) has launched a new book that will serve as a resource for governments interested in learning from existing good practice on using wastewater in agriculture.

The book Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture: Good Practice Examples, aims to highlight how a sound understanding of the opportunities and potential risks must be the base for any use of wastewater.

“In many countries wastewater irrigation is not something organised by the government or local authorities,” Hiroshan Hettiarachchi, Head of Waste Management Unit, UNU-FLORES, told The Source. “Farmers tend to identify natural and low-cost alternatives for their needs and water-reuse is one of them as it addresses needs in water and fertiliser. However, since it happens at a large scale now, organising the process based on a scientific criterion is the need of the hour.”

In face of increasing water scarcity, recognising wastewater as a resource has been a crucial step towards ensuring future water security. Today, more than 20 million hectares of land are irrigated with wastewater. However, much of this practice is not based on any scientific criteria ensuring the safe use of the wastewater.

The partners involved in the Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture Initiative were approached by a number of countries with the request to help them address capacity needs. In response to this request, UNU-FLORES identified several case studies from around the world in 2015 exemplifying the practice of wastewater use in agriculture across the globe. These were discussed at a workshop in Lima, Peru, in February 2016 attended by experts, researchers, and ministerial representatives from 15 different countries.

“It is extremely important for all stakeholders to understand the value as well as the limitations,” added Hettiarachchi. “There is a need for the introduction of a new and better-organised process. For example, there is a well-organised process to distribute water as it is seen and defined as an inflow. Wastewater, on the other hand, is often seen as an “issue” rather than an inflow to solve other issues. This gap needs to be filled by a scientific process that takes both benefits and risks into account.”