The challenges of wastewater irrigation in developing countries
The volume of wastewater generated by domestic, industrial and commercial sources has increased with population, urbanization, improved living conditions, and economic development. The productive use of wastewater has also increased, as millions of small-scale farmers in urban and peri-urban areas of developing countries depend on wastewater or wastewater polluted water sources to irrigate high-value edible crops for urban markets, often as they have no alternative sources of irrigation water. Undesirable constituents in wastewater can harm human health and the environment. Hence, wastewater irrigation is an issue of concern to public agencies responsible for maintaining public health and environmental quality. For diverse reasons, many developing countries are still unable to implement comprehensive wastewater treatment programs. Therefore in the near term, risk management and interim solutions are needed to prevent adverse impacts from wastewater irrigation. A combination of source control, and farm-level and post-harvest measures can be used to protect farm workers and consumers. The WHO guidelines revised in 2006 for wastewater use suggest measures beyond the traditional recommendations of producing only industrial or non-edible crops, as in many situations it is impossible to enforce a change in the current cash crop pattern, or provide alternative vegetable supply to urban markets. There are several opportunities for improving wastewater management via improved policies, institutional dialogues and financial mechanisms, which would reduce the risks in agriculture. Effluent standards combined with incentives or enforcement can motivate improvements in water management by household and industrial sectors discharging wastewater from point sources. Segregation of chemical pollutants from urban wastewater facilitates treatment and reduces risk. Strengthening institutional capacity and establishing links between water delivery and sanitation sectors through inter-institutional coordination leads to more efficient management of wastewater and risk reduction.
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- International Water Management Institute (IWMI)., 2003. "Confronting the realities of wastewater use in agriculture," IWMI Water Policy Briefings H033469, International Water Management Institute. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
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