Treated Wastewater’s Potential for Improving Water and Food Security in the Middle East and North Africa

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Anne Elizabeth Dare, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) contains just 1% of the world’s freshwater; however, even in the very arid countries of the Gulf region, high quality treated wastewater rarely sees a productive use. As countries deal with growing populations and strive for increased food security, freshwater alone cannot be relied upon to meet these demands. This research identifies best practices from the MENA for reusing treated wastewater in agricultural production, and calculates the potential of treated wastewater for increasing food production in select countries. Drawing upon both published and original treated wastewater quality data for locations in the MENA, the annual volume of treated wastewater produced, and crop water demands, estimates for potential crop production from treated wastewater are calculated. The volume of wastewater treated annually is equivalent to 10-40% of agricultural withdrawals in most MENA countries. Irrigation by treated wastewater has significant potential to impact water and food security by reducing agricultural water withdrawals and increasing domestic food production. Such initiatives require application of best management practices, such as transparent monitoring and evaluation of reuse projects for public and environmental health risks, and support from both farmers and policy makers.