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Recycling water to preserve it

Posted on 13 November 2015.

According to the results of a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Veolia, water quality is deteriorating rapidly in many countries.

This is a unique study – the first of its kind. While most forecasts look at water scarcity, The murky future of global water quality focuses on water quality over the next several decades. Under different scenarios, the study examines the impact of increased amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus on water resources. Nitrogen and phosphorus are naturally present in water and are essential nutrients for plant growth and aquatic ecosystems. However, in excess, they can harm both humans and the environment. Given the growing impact of human activities and climate change, the study predicts that by 2050, one in three people will be exposed to nitrogen and phosphorus water pollution. Fortunately, solutions exist.

Recycling wastewater

One solution is to recycle wastewater from homes and businesses. By installing collection, processing and storage systems in homes and buildings, we can reuse water, improve its quality and reduce the pollutants entering water bodies where wastewater is discharged. At home the water from the bathtub, shower and sink - the so-called grey water can be recycled – can be used for flushing toilets and even watering plants. Wastewater can also be recycled by businesses too. For example, Disneyland Paris is now in the process of installing a wastewater recycling plant which will reuse 740,000 m3 of wastewater to irrigate green spaces, clean the roads and fill the ornamental ponds...

Sustainable agriculture and innovation

The agricultural sector not only consumes but also pollutes the most water. With a projected world population of at least 9 billion by 2050, agriculture will have to adopt more efficient and sustainable methods to "increase yields per drop of water" while limiting nutrient inputs. The IFPRI and Veolia study advocates deep placement of urea, which increases crop yields while reducing the amount of fertilizer used, and using advanced monitoring systems that give precise information about crop needs in terms of water and fertilizer. Farmers could also replace intensive irrigation systems by other techniques, such as drip irrigation, which reduce both water and fertilizer consumption. They could also adopt no-till farming techniques to reduce erosion and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff...

Although The murky future of global water quality presents an alarming vision of water quality in the decades ahead, it shows how important it is to address this issue alongside that of scarcity. Better still, it helps us think about new approaches to preserving our most fragile and most valuable resource.