A framework for analyzing the impacts of treated, partially treated or untreated wastewater use in agriculture

The use of treated, partially treated or untreated wastewater in agriculture has been a common practice for many years in many countries around the world. Water from agricultural drainage forms the largest quantity of wastewater used in Egypt. A significant quantity of untreated or partially treated domestic wastewater, effluent from industries and discharges from wastewater treatment facilities that are operating under-capacity are adding to the supply because they are discharged into the agricultural drains. A significant volume of this mixed drain water is being pumped and used for irrigating crops, especially when there is water scarcity in the canal systems. This practice of using drain water mixed with untreated or partially treated sewage for irrigating crops has the potential to severely harm human health and the environment. The availability of current information on wastewater generation, treatment and use is immensely important for policy makers, researchers and practitioners in making action plans at the national and local level for safe and productive use of this resource. Technically sound and economically feasible solution to treat wastewater along with robust policies is very much essential to minimize the environmental and health risks. The aim in this research is first, to understand the benefits and risks (health and environmental) associated with wastewater irrigation in the Nile delta region of Egypt, second, to identify most feasible and cost effective method of wastewater treatment in the rural areas and third to assess potential marketing strategies for delivering treated wastewater to private sector (floriculture and timber industries). For 2015-16, the following sub-activities are proposed: • An audit of current situation of infrastructure, wastewater production and reuse in the Nile Delta through collection of sex disaggregated data to ensure inclusion of the role of women as generators, managers, and users of wastewater. • The development of an evidence-based database of current wastewater agricultural practices and the quality of water used (disaggregated by sex). • Assess the perception of men and women on the use of wastewater for agricultural use • Evaluation of health and agronomic risks to farmers and consumers including implications for sustainable management of the ecosystem • Economic evaluation of benefits and risks of future wastewater (treated/partially treated/untreated) irrigation. • Assess institutional coordination among various marginal quality water stakeholders and current policies pertaining to marginal quality waters. • Assess the technical and economic feasibility of using artificial wetlands to treat the marginal quality water in the rural areas. • An assessment of potential marketing strategies for delivering treated waste water to the private sector An extensive literature review will be carried out to document current practices. The available data on infrastructure, wastewater production, treatment and re-use will be collected from various stakeholders (Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Holding Company etc.). A stakeholder workshop and one to one meeting with key stakeholders will be organized to document current practices, policies and institutional responsibilities. A suitable site will be selected after consulting with the stakeholders to carry out detailed analysis. An inventory of the common health problems faced by farmers using wastewater for irrigation will be collected by conducting a questionnaire survey. Separate questions will be included to assess the perception of men and women on the use of marginal quality water for irrigation. Random samples of irrigation water, groundwater and soil will be collected during the cropping season from different locations in the study area and analysis will be conducted to assess the environmental implications of wastewater use. An assessment of decrease in the land productivity (kg/ha) over the years will be carried out based on survey results and by comparing the productivity of the wastewater irrigated area with an area similar of soil type and climate but is irrigated using fresh canal water. Focal group discussions will be organized with the farming community to improve their awareness on health and environmental impacts. Large number of cities and villages in Egypt are located on the fringes of deserts. This implies the availability of sufficient space of desert lands where wetland treatment systems can be established. In the second year the project will conduct some pilot experiments in an already established wetland system. At the end of second year, solid recommendations coupled with its financial implications will be presented to the decision makers.