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Wastewater Use in Irrigated Agriculture: Confronting the Livelihood and Environmental Realities

Christopher Scott, Naser I. Faruqui, and Liqa Raschid

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The use of urban wastewater in agriculture is a centuries-old practice that is receiving renewed attention with the increasing scarcity of fresh water resources in many arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Driven by rapid urbanization and growing wastewater volumes, wastewater is widely used as a low-cost alternative to conventional irrigation water: it supports livelihoods and generates considerable value in urban and peri-urban agriculture despite the associated health and environmental risks. Though pervasive, this practice is largely unregulated in low-income countries, and the costs and benefits are poorly understood.

This book critically reviews experience worldwide in the use of wastewater for agriculture through a series of peer-reviewed papers defining and elaborating on the issues at the centre of the debate around wastewater use in agriculture. Particular emphasis is placed on untreated wastewater use by means of field-based case studies from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America that address the environmental and health impacts and risks. In a first step toward better understanding the global extent of wastewater use in agriculture, a methodology is developed and applied for selected countries to quantify the magnitude of wastewater use in agriculture. The chapters consider multiple aspects including the economic, health, agronomic, environmental, institutional, and policy dimensions and research needs. The editors conclude with a prognosis of future challenges and realities of wastewater use in agriculture.

The editors

Christopher Scott is South Asia Regional Director for the International Water Management Institute. Dr Scott is a hydrologist with over 15 years of research experience in applied hydrology and water resources. He has worked on issues related to wastewater irrigation, water reuse, and water quality in Mexico, India, Nepal, Jordan, and the United States over the past 9 years.

Naser Faruqui, Senior Specialist (Water) for the International Development Research Centre, is an environmental engineer with over 16 years experience in water resources management, water supply and treatment, and wastewater treatment and use. Since 1995, he has focused his research on more efficient and equitable water use in developing countries, principally in the Middle East and West Africa.

Liqa Raschid is the Coordinator of the Wastewater and Agriculture Program at the International Water Management Institute. She is an environmental engineer with over 18 years experience in the planning and management of environmental pollution control. She has worked extensively on wastewater agriculture issues in both Africa and Asia.