IWRA Webinar Nº37

Agricultural Water Reuse: Challenges and Opportunities – 16 December 2020

IWRA hosted a third webinar focused on Water Reuse in a Circular Economy. This webinar, focusing on Global Water Security Issues – Agricultural water reuse: Challenges and Opportunities, brought together a diverse group of panelists to consider this important issue.

The webinar opened with an overview of the Global Water Security Issues (GWSI) series of publications. Each year, a theme is identified that highlights a key aspect of global water security. GWSI reports are available free of charge on UNESCO’s websites, including the 2019 book with the theme Water Reuse within a Circular Economy. Two panelists of the webinar were chapter authors for the 2020 GWSI, with detailed case studies that included water reuse for agriculture.

The webinar continued with an overview of the considerable research UNESCO has done to identify the benefits and potential barriers to widespread water reuse, which will be essential to meet the growing demands for freshwater in the future. Climate change, industrial water demands and population growth are all having effects on water quantity and quantity. Solutions to encourage water reuse include technologies, addressing institutional capacity, developing effective and innovative governance approaches and financing solutions. Agricultural water reuse can help to address water scarcity and security issues if the right steps are taken.

One GWSI chapter author presented a case study in Southern Spain, where a number of factors result in limited water supplies in the region. Agricultural water reuse is seen as one way to mitigate shortages and the research entailed an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) for agricultural water reuse. A second GWSI chapter author presented research results from Morocco, where the National Water Plan (PNA) and the Green Morocco Plan have been implemented and are supporting growth in wastewater treatment and capacity. Numerous projects are ongoing under the holistic approach created by the national plans, including technologies to extract phosphate from wastewater to produce biogas.

The panel agreed that the term “waste” should not be applied to any water to reflect the need for recovery and reuse in all sectors. Also, more work needs to be done to develop local capacity to reuse water in agriculture. Some barriers to reuse include various governmental jurisdictions within a region that do not fully coordinate programs and priorities. The fact that all water is ultimately reused since water continuously returns to the environment was discussed, although it is very important to recognize that some uses leave certain constituents in the water that must be create   research and more public support is needed to push agricultural water reuse forward in the public agenda and use.

The IWRA again thanks its panellists and our moderator for their participation and engagement: Mohammad Al-Saidi, Professor, Center for Sustainable Development, Qatar University; Faissal Aziz, Assistant Professor, Cadi Ayyad University, Morocco; Seo Hyung Choi, Programme Specialist, i-WSSM UNESCO; Alfonso Expósito García, Professor, University of Seville, Spain; Alexandros Makarigakis, Programme Specialist, UNESCO; and, Mary Trudeau, IWRA Project Officer. This webinar was presented by Scott McKenzie, PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia.