Shifting the imbalance: Intentional reuse of Dutch sewage effluent in sub-surface irrigation
“Worldwide, agricultural irrigation currently accounts for 69% of freshwater withdrawal. Countries with a temperate climate, such as the Netherlands, experience periodic freshwater shortages in agriculture. The pressure on available freshwater will increase due to climate change and a growing demand for freshwater by e.g. industrial activities. Possible alternative water resources are considered in order to meet the current and future water demand. In this study we explore where, and how much, sewage treatment plant (STP) effluent can directly be reused in agricultural sub-surface irrigation (SSI) during an average and a dry season scenario, for all active (335) Dutch STPs. SSI systems may have a higher water demand as part of the STP effluent is transported with groundwater flow, although aboveground irrigation has a loss of water due to interception. Furthermore, such aboveground irrigation systems provide direct contact of crops with irrigation water. SSI systems provide a soil barrier which may function as a filter and buffer zone. In the Dutch situation, direct intentional reuse of STP effluent can fulfill up to 25% of croplands SSI water demand present within a five-kilometer transport buffer from the STPs during an average season and 17% during a dry season. Hereto, respectively, 78% and 84% of the total available Dutch STP effluent would be used. Thus, the intentional direct STP effluent reuse in agricultural SSI has the potential to satisfy a significant amount of the agricultural water demand at a national scale, presuming responsible reuse: safe applications for humans and environment and no limiting effects on water availability for other actors.”
(Citation: Narain-Ford, D.M., Bartholomeus, R.P., et al. – Shifting the imbalance: Intentional reuse of Dutch sewage effluent in sub-surface irrigation – Science of the Total Environment 752(2021)142214 – DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142214 – (Open Access))
© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.
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