Wastewater production, treatment, and irrigation in Middle East and North Africa
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- Qadir, M., Bahri, A., Sato, T. et al. Irrig Drainage Syst (2010) 24: 37. doi:10.1007/s10795-009-9081-y
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the driest region of the world with only 1% of the world’s freshwater resources. The increasing competition for good-quality water has cut into agriculture’s water share but since the use of freshwater for domestic, industrial and municipal activities generates wastewater, the volume of wastewater used in agriculture has increased. About 43% of wastewater generated in the MENA region is treated; a relatively high percentage compared to other developing-country dominated regions. This is because of the perceived importance of wastewater as a water resource and several oil-rich countries with the resources to treat wastewater. The MENA region has an opportunity for beneficial reuse of wastewater but few countries in the region have been able to implement substantial wastewater treatment and reuse programs. The major constraints leading to seemingly slow and uneven reuse of wastewater are: inadequate information on the status of reuse or disposal of wastewater and associated environmental and health impacts; incomplete economic analysis of the wastewater treatment and reuse options, usually restricted to financial feasibility analysis; high costs and low returns of developing wastewater collection networks and wastewater treatment plants; lack of wastewater treatment and reuse cost-recovery mechanisms and lack of commitment to support comprehensive wastewater treatment programs; mismatch between water pricing and regional water scarcity; preference for freshwater over wastewater; and inefficient irrigation and water management schemes undermining the potential of wastewater reuse. However, some countries such as Tunisia, Jordan, and Israel have policies in place that address wastewater treatment through a range of instruments. Policymakers in these countries consider use of treated wastewater to be an essential aspect of strategic water and wastewater planning and management. With flexible policy frameworks addressing rapid demographic changes and increasing water scarcity in the MENA region, water reuse has great potential if integrated with resource planning, environmental management and financing arrangements.