Skip to main content

The reuse of reclaimed water for irrigation around the Mediterranean Rim: a step towards a more virtuous cycle?


Climate change and a growing population around the Mediterranean Rim are increasing the need for water and, consequently, the pressure on resources in terms of both quantity and quality. High-quality water should be primarily reserved to drinking water while reclaimed water is an alternative for other usages. A review of situations in Tunisia, Jordan, France, and Italy involving the use of reclaimed water highlights the disparity in national regulations governing this alternative water resource and in its management. On the first hand, the use of recycled water for irrigation can have an adverse impact on public health and the environment, depending on treatment and irrigation practices. On the other hand, it may also represent a new source of water: wastewater should no longer be considered as waste but, rather, as a new resource to be handled in a circular economy-type loop. Current scientific knowledge in agronomic and environmental sciences, as well as in the economic and social sciences, can be integrated and used to lower the associated risk through the effective management of irrigation using recycled water and to address the following questions: (i) How can the time-varying nutrient needs of crops be managed to operate safe environmental reuse within an adapted risk assessment framework? (ii) What socio-economic models can render this integrated approach sustainable? (iii) What treatment systems and irrigation technology can be used to support these ideas and with what information? (iv) What changes in the regulations are needed?

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.



  2. This practice refers to the use of non-conventional waters.

  3. Abbreviated as CBA (see Online Resource 2)

  4. “Feedback control” refers to the appropriate way of acting on a physical system—through actuators—to force certain output variables—usually observed via measurements—to follow predefined possibly, time-varying patterns called “setpoints.”

  5. Abbreviated as LCA (see Online Resource 3)


Download references


The authors thank for their financial support the SICMED Mediterranean research network (, the TREASURE research network (, the UTIQUE project 2013 No. 28687SF “Ecologie microbienne et modélisation pour le traitement de l’eau,” the TASSILI project 2015 No. 33254QH “Procédés membranaires pour le traitement anaérobie des eaux usées—Modélisation, commande et optimisation,” the Water4Crops FP7 project, “Integrating bio-TWW with enhanced water use efficiency to support the Green Economy in EU and India,” No. 311933, the Mad4Water EU Horizon 2020 project, “Development And application of integrated technological and management solutions for wastewater treatment and efficient reuse in agriculture tailored to the needs of Mediterranean African Countries,” and the NOWWMA project, “New Process for Optimizing Wastewater Reuse from Mauguio to the Mediterranean Area” in support of the French Reuse Directive.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jérôme Harmand.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 26 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ait-Mouheb, N., Bahri, A., Thayer, B.B. et al. The reuse of reclaimed water for irrigation around the Mediterranean Rim: a step towards a more virtuous cycle?. Reg Environ Change 18, 693–705 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Wastewater reuse
  • Irrigation in agriculture
  • Environmental impacts
  • Sanitary and environmental impacts
  • Systemic approach
  • Integrated treatment systems