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Re-use and recycling of water

Freshwater scarcity is now a major issue in many areas of the world. Additional sources of water are therefore required – especially for agriculture, which is a major water user. The re-use or recycling of drainage water, wastewater, brackish water or polluted groundwater can be economically and environmentally beneficial and practicable in many settings. However, these water sources require careful management. The two main re-use techniques are: blending (normally for drainage water) which involves the mixing of marginal quality water with good quality water to reduce the concentration of pollutants; and treatment which involves either high-cost treatment works or low-cost robust systems such as constructed wetlands, soil aquifer systems or stabilisation ponds to remove pathogens and undesirable trace elements. Stabilisation ponds can achieve water of good enough quality to use for unrestricted irrigation based on WHO (1973) Guidelines. The re-use of drainage water for irrigation is already extensively practised in Egypt, Pakistan and USA. The re-use or recycling of water for domestic purposes will increase as low-cost techniques for treating water become more widespread.

Further information: The safe use of marginal quality water in agriculture: a guide for the water resource planner, HR Wallingford, 1997. Water quality for agriculture, FAO, 1989.

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