With over 50 participants from +17 countries, the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), through the Mediterranean Agronomic Institutes of Zaragoza (IAMZ) and Bari (IAMB), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) through its running project ReWater-MENA and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), in collaboration with the Regional Office for Near East and North Africa of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Action Plan for the Water Strategy of the 5+5 Dialogue, organized an International Course on Wastewater Reuse for Agriculture from 17 to 25 May 2021.
The problem of water scarcity is aggravating as a result of accelerated urbanization, population growth, industrial and agricultural development. In addition to these factors, climate changes represent a substantial risk because it affects considerably both water resources and crops. Globally, agriculture is the largest consumer of water, accounting for approximately 70% of all freshwater. Farmers in many arid and semiarid areas are forced to find solutions to irrigate their crops, so they often must use treated, untreated or undiluted wastewater which is cheaper than other water sources.
In this regard, where the available water for agriculture is decreasing due to the rapidly and ever-growing population, non-conventional water resources development should be largely adopted such as the safe use of treated wastewater. Treated, partially treated, or untreated wastewater has been used in agriculture for many years and in many parts of the world, but currently the challenge is to provide end-users with economically feasible water treatment technologies, protocols, guidelines and effective practices for reclaimed water use, considering safety, environmental, socio-economic and legal constraints. This should be reinforced by promoting social acceptance and providing recommendations to policy makers to overcome challenges regarding public perception.
The course took place at IAMZ and was given by more than +13 well qualified lecturers from international organizations, and research centers, firms and associations in different countries. It aims to integrate the key elements and technologies involved in the reuse of wastewater for agriculture to enhance the capacity of professionals working in this field. It focused on the adoption of evidence-based solutions of reuse of treated wastewater at watershed and farm levels and its environmental and safety impacts, according to the principle of integrated water resources management and the circular economy approach.
Javier Mateo-Sagasta, Senior Researcher at IWMI and ReWater MENA Project Leader, was one of these professional lecturers, who presented the status, prospects and challenges of water reuse in MENA region. He also presented the objectives and outputs of ReWater MENA which aims to expand the safe reuse of treated wastewater in MENA region by addressing barriers to reuse and identifying validated reuse models. These include cultural barriers, institutional fragmentation, inappropriate regulations and lack of financial models for cost recovery. With a focus on Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, the project helps in facilitating inclusive and participatory engagement with stakeholders, to support the development and uptake of project results.
Finally, the course was a unique and great opportunity to network with professionals from all over the world and share practical experience on the development and implementation of wastewater reuse projects to enhance the capacity of professionals working in this field.