Untreated wastewater and agriculture

Every year, a significant amount of water resources is spent on agriculture, which due to the limited freshwater resources and climate change, one of the proposed ways is wastewater treatment. This shortage of freshwater can be partially compensated by re-treatment of wastewater and use in the agricultural sector.
One of the main problems of using this method is improper treatment and the entry of untreated wastewater into the agricultural sector, which can pose many risks to human health. This paper describes the effects of untreated wastewater entering agricultural waters.

The World Health Organization has described some effects of sewage entering agricultural waters, including gastrointestinal and diarrheal diseases, viral diseases, hepatitis A, worm infections such as ascariasis, and anemia.
Another problem with untreated wastewater entering agricultural waters is that workers and farmers can be exposed to skin diseases due to frequent skin contact with this contaminated water. Also, the presence of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead can cause many health problems. For example, the accumulation of cadmium in the kidneys due to repeated contact with these contaminated waters can cause kidney disease and osteoporosis.

Due to the numerous problems of untreated wastewater entry into agricultural waters, the importance of the study, in this case, has been identified. Some countries in Southeast Asia, as well as sub-Saharan Africa, need to study more closely in this area due to the entry of industrial effluents into the sewage system because the treatment of different materials requires different technologies. One of the issues that different communities are always considering is that It is necessary to whether to do so, given the costs of wastewater treatment as well as the diseases caused by improper wastewater treatment and its entry into agricultural waters.

The answer to this question requires factors such as geographical location, method of using factory effluents, the volume of water resources, as well as the amount of water required for agricultural activities. Based on the mentioned factors and economic estimates, it can be concluded whether in each region, is it economical?

Finally, due to global warming and the scarcity of water resources, humans are forced to use different methods to compensate for the water needed in different sectors, but it should be noted that using treated wastewater for agricultural activities, must be done in principle to prevent acute problems related to human health.

Source: Dickin, S. K., Schuster-Wallace, C. J., Qadir, M., & Pizzacalla, K. (2016). A Review of Health Risks and Pathways for Exposure to Wastewater Use in Agriculture. Environmental health perspectives124(7), 900–909. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1509995

Translator: Maryam Pasandidehnia