Treating and recycling wastewater might be the key to solving the water scarcity problem in many countries around the world, according to new research from Japan’s Tottori University and U.N. University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).
Although the price of new treatment facilities is said to be the main reason to why very limited few have already explored the potential use of recycled H2O, emerging economies will greatly benefit from the wasted resource.
The study looked at the generation, treatment and re-use of wastewater in 181 countries across the globe, and revealed some striking findings. First, only 55 of the nations of interest had any data on these processes, and second, in North America alone, only 4% of all wastewater is treated and re-used. The latter is of a particular importance, considering that the amount of water that is generated and not recycled equals the amount of water flowing over the Niagara Falls.
As Zafar Adeel, the director of UNU-INWEH stated, the potential of using wastewater, especially in developing economies, is huge and sadly too often overlooked. For instance, countries like Pakistan use mostly fresh water for irrigation, when it is very likely that pumping and transporting freshwater might well be much more expensive than treatment facilities, as it is the case in Orange County in California.
The authors of the research published in the latest issue of the journal Agricultural Water Management point out that not only the treatment costs are increasingly coming down, but also costs could be kept lower depending on the level of purity that is required. Of course, treating wastewater for drinking is quite pricey, but if it is used for irrigation of crops for biofuel, the technology does not have to be extremely advanced. What is more, in many cases wastewater already contains potash, nitrogen and phosphorus, which could cut down on fertilizer costs.