With food demand and water scarcity rising, it's time to stop treating wastewater like garbage and instead manage it as a resource that can be used to grow crops, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Ahead of the World Water Day in March, which this year has a focus on water reuse, FAO has said that if properly managed, wastewater can be used safely to support crop production — directly through irrigation or indirectly by recharging aquifers. Already, agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals — with demand for food estimated to grow by at least 50% by 2050, agriculture's water needs are poised to expand.
In addition to helping cope with water scarcity, wastewater often has a high nutrient load, making it a good fertilizer.
In Egypt, for example, where water supplies are limited and wastewater tends to be highly contaminated, constructed wetlands are proving to be a promising, economically viable approach to treatment. In Tunisia wastewater is being widely used in agroforestry projects, supporting both wood production as well as anti-desertification efforts. In Jordan, reclaimed water represents 25% of all total water use in the country.
[Photo by Chuck Siefke | Flickr]