As water sources become scarce, the need for more reused water is becoming more apparent. Considering the amount needed, wastewater cannot be ignored in such developments. The question has always been whether wastewater will ever be safe to consume. If you have not seen waste management services for wastewater in Utah already, the fact is that people are already using the water, with the need for safer use being the highlight.
Urban and industrial wastewater carries harmful physical, biological, and chemical components that need to be removed before it can be reused. A country like Israel is doing extremely well, as it has the largest percentage of recycled water for irrigation. Unfortunately, global performance in terms of wastewater treatment is lacking. How does the future look for farming in regards to sewage?
Climate Change and Population Growth
Socioeconomic challenges coupled with population growth have been the forces behind the appetite for sewage. For instance, the MENA region comprising of the Middle East and North Africa counties has some members receiving as little as 100m3/capita renewable water annually.
In Latin America, the problem is different — population growth — but the results are the same. In Utah, the complaint may be about the overuse of water. Everywhere, people need to find creative ways of sustaining farming water requirements. Wastewater seems to be a viable answer.
Nutrients in Wastewater
Wastewater can contain many plant nutrients, so the increase in crops planted close to the sewage should not surprise you.
Urban wastewater contains a number of nutrients, including phosphorus and nitrogen. Both of these are valuable in the sense that they are non-renewable and energy-intensive to produce respectively. It is for such reasons that farming applications for sewage have become so popular. With the nutrients acquired, farmers will need less artificial fertilizer leading to a subsequent reduction in energy consumption.
Affordable for Communities
In less developed nations, the cost-free nature of raw wastewater makes it even more attractive. Farmers are using it without any measures, exposing them to health risks.
Once more people discover that the water has free fertilizer, they are more likely to use it regardless of the dangers on their health. Even prohibitory laws may not succeed because of enforcement challenges in such communities. Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines being in place, farmers are intent on using untreated wastewater.
Public authorities are yet to acknowledge wastewater farming because of the health impacts of the pathogenic contents. Epidemics have been reported in many parts of the world in the past, the causes ranging from protozoa to bacterial infections. Another reason that the liberal application of the water remains elusive is the presence of heavy metals such as mercury (Hg) and Cadmium (Cd). Their relation to the nervous system and brain damage is the most worrisome.
Wastewater is definitely a valuable resource that must be viewed as such. The time for prohibiting its application on farms is outdated. Friendly policies must take over so that users can have access to safe wastewater. The economic and environmental benefits are too important to ignore.