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The wealth of waste: The economics of wastewater use in agriculture

The wealth of waste

By James Winpenny, Ingo Jeinz and Sasha Koo-Oshima
Published by FAO
Website: www.earthprint.com
2010, 129pp, ISBN 978 9 25106 578 5(Pb), US$35 or free to download

Within the next 50 years, it is estimated that more than 40 per cent of the world's population will live in countries facing water stress. In this context, recycling urban wastewater and using it to irrigate crops could have several advantages, helping to mitigate water scarcity, reduce water pollution and increase food production. "It is not the only option for bringing supply and demand into a better balance," the authors write, "but in many cases it is a cost effective solution, as the growing number of reuse schemes in different parts of the world testify."

The wealth of waste states that recycling urban wastewater offers a 'triple dividend' to urban water users, farmers and the environment. Benefits include a more reliable and nutrient rich source of water for farmers, greater access to fresh water for city-dwellers and a reduction in untreated wastewater being released downstream. But in developing countries, where untreated wastewater is used for agricultural purposes, the book highlights the importance of measures to safeguard public health.

Aimed at policymakers and professionals working on wastewater, the book presents an economic framework by which to measure the efficiency and sustainability of wastewater usage. "It is unlikely that such schemes could be economically justified with reference only to agriculture," the report concludes. "The benefits to urban and industrial users would be relatively sizeable, and in most cases would be the principal justification."

Date published: September 2010

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