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UN agency calls for increased use of urban wastewater in agriculture

UN agency calls for increased use of urban wastewater in agriculture

An FAO-supported afforestation project in Egypt that uses treated wastewater mixed with groundwater to irrigate trees
Recycled urban wastewater can be used to irrigate crops, helping to ease the problem of water scarcity and reduce pollution, a new United Nations report says as it calls for the practice to be scaled up.

The report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), released yesterday to coincide with the start of World Water Week, finds that reclaimed and treated wastewater is used in agriculture in more than 50 countries around the globe.

In some countries, such as Spain and Mexico, a high proportion of treated wastewater is used for irrigation.

But the FAO said the data indicates that overall the practice is not being as widely implemented as it should.

Pasquale Steduto, the Deputy Director of FAO’s Land and Water Division, said the re-use of wastewater brings benefits beyond a mere increase in food production, such as by helping “to mitigate competition between cities and agriculture for water in regions of growing water scarcity. In the right settings, it can also help to deal with urban wastewater effluent and downstream pollution.”

Mr. Steduto added that farmers can also avoid some of the costs of pumping groundwater, while the nutrients contained in wastewater would reduce their fertilizer expenses.

In addition, recycling wastewater frees up freshwater for so-called high-value urban or industrial use, reducing the costs to municipal authorities.