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Safe use of wastewater resources in agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) together with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) and the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC), in collaboration with the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), have implemented a Capacity Development Project on the Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture. The project was launched in November 2011 with an international workshop in Bonn, and the first phase run until June 2013.


The impetus behind the project is population growth and rapid urbanization which are intensifying pressure on fresh water resources. The high level of local water demand is leading to increasing water scarcity and stress and is consequently driving the use of non-conventional waters, such as (treated) urban wastewater.


Agriculture irrigation is the greater wastewater user and is especially important in urban and peri-urban areas where wastewater can serve as a new source of water and fertilizer that have to be properly managed to minimize environmental and health risk.


An important factor that makes wastewater valuable is that it is a reliable source of water and available all year round. Consequently, it permits higher crops yields, year-round production, and increases the range of crops that can be irrigated. Additionally, wastewater contains large diversity of nutrients than any commercial fertilizer can provide. However, wastewater is also a source of pollution, and can affect the health of users, consumers and the environment if safe practices are not applied.


The project hence intends to address and promote safe practices where wastewater is used in agriculture and develop national capacities for the promotion of the safe use of wastewater in agriculture in developing countries and countries in transition. The project also aims towards enhancing the knowledge and skills on the safe use of wastewater among staff members in selected organizations.

The first phase of the project was finalized at the end of June 2013. The proceedings, which documents the activities and outcomes sofar, as well as learning materials and other resources are available on the UN-Water Activity Information System (AIS).


Visit the AIS to learn more

Last update:07 Oct 2014