Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

The second life of water depends on user perception

Written by Michel Neumuller avec le Plan Bleu on Friday, November 2nd 2012 à 09:55 | Read 524 times

The reuse of treated wastewater (TWW reuse) for irrigation will become a necessity, at least in the Southern Mediterranean region. And yet the obstacles facing TWW reuse projects are numerous, but are removable all the same, explains consultant Nicolas Condom.

For consultant Nicolas Condom, the condition for success is first and foremost the sharing of knowledge understandable by all players (photo NC)
For consultant Nicolas Condom, the condition for success is first and foremost the sharing of knowledge understandable by all players (photo NC)
“The reuse of treated domestic wastewater for irrigation constitutes a complex issue. One of the principal obstacles lies in the lack of a language commonly understood by both project initiators and potential users. They do not understand each other” states Nicolas Condom. 
International Consultant at Ecofilae (Montpellier, France), Nicolas Condom, along with Marianne Lefebvre and Laurent Vandome, produced a study report for the Blue Plan for the Mediterranean  on “The reuse of treated waste water in the Mediterranean region: feedback on experiments and a guide to project development”. The report provides an analysis of the obstacles facing recycling projects and the keys to their success. 
The issue seems simple: “the reuse of treated waste water constitutes an alternative solution to meeting water requirements within the context of a water shortage. But, the obstacles are significant” underlines the consultant. Health concerns together with incomplete and sometimes too restrictive regulations prevent any positive development in certain countries. However, “the forecasts concerning water resources make raising awareness imperative” believes Nicolas Condom.

A common language to understand one another

Water reused for irrigation has a real economic value in places where water is scarce (photo MN)
Water reused for irrigation has a real economic value in places where water is scarce (photo MN)
“The determinants are essential”contends the study. “Devising technical solutions for the collection and treatment of this wastewater and then, only afterwards, considering its destination can lead to the failure of the approach”. The document recommends “a usage-based approach. The end goal should determine the approach beforehand, not vice versa”. 
Supported by examples, the study also argues in favour of“searching for simple solutions that are both reproducible and specific to local conditions”. In short, a territorial approach. This approach is responsible for example for the success of treated wastewater reuse in Spain, Israel, Jordan and Tunisia, where projects of this type are flourishing, aided by consensus within each country’s society. 
The principal obstacle facing TWW reuse remains the absence of shared knowledge. “The different administrative players do not always share the same analyses. It appears therefore essential to promote the development of a common language, a knowledge understandable by all and a participative approach”. 
The players will then perhaps better share the fact that recycled wastewater has a value, especially in places where there is a lack of water. In addition to its use in irrigation, it enables green spaces to be watered and also groundwater levels to be replenished (notably coastal aquifers) consequently contributing to the fight against saline intrusion, and thus avoiding significant costs to society. This value remains little studied by economists. It is an area ready to be explored and exploited, preferably before water stress becomes a permanent feature around the Mediterranean.

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