Food and Water

Wastewater Irrigation: Past, Present and Future

With population growth and fast socio-economic development, water shortage is becoming a serious issue worldwide.

With population growth and fast socio-economic development, water shortage is becoming a serious issue worldwide. As a key alternative water resource, wastewater can be used in agriculture to compensate for water shortages.

Like a coin has two sides, wastewater irrigation has its advantages and disadvantages. Due to its high quantities, nutritional properties (nitrogen and phosphorous), and direct water pollution preventing, wastewater is a reliable and stable source of water that can save fertilizer costs. Therefore, wastewater is widely used for irrigation and especially in arid and semiarid regions. However, the associated risks also exist. Untreated wastewater irrigation can cause numerous healthy and environmental problems.

In the Review Article “Wastewater Irrigation: Past, Present and Future” published in WIREs Water, Prof. Yanjun Shen and his team member Dr. Yucui Zhang of the Centre for Agricultural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences gave a broad and systematic overview of the history, present and future challenges related to wastewater irrigation. Wastewater irrigation has a long development history from the prehistoric civilizations to the recent years. And it has undergone different phases in developing and developed countries. Wastewater irrigation affects crops based on water compositions and crop physiological mechanisms. Meanwhile, irrigation methods can also effectively mitigate negative environmental effects. There are many challenges in future, such as the population growth, urbanization accelerates, climate change, and so on. In order to play a positive role and avoid the shortages for the wastewater irrigation, strong management practices and advanced technologies will help to earn substantial benefits while minimize risks.

Text contributed by Yucui Zhang

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