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United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
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Newsletter and Technical Publications
<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>

6.1 Wastewater reuse from off-site treatment plants

6.1.1 Wastewater reuse for agriculture

Treated wastewater from off-site treatment plants can be reused for irrigation of parks and gardens, agriculture and horticulture, tree plantation and aquaculture, if these exist or can be established not far from the wastewater treatment plants. For these purposes the wastewater should generally be treated to secondary wastewater standard (< 20 mg/L BOD and < 30 mg/L SS). Total coliforms should be < 1000 organisms per 100 mL for irrigation by spraying. When sub-surface irrigation is used this requirement may not be necessary. A period of non-entry to irrigated sites may need to be observed, particularly for wastewater-irrigated parks and gardens. Irrigation of vegetables for direct human consumption requires a much stricter guideline.

Because requirement of wastewater for plant growth is governed by climatic conditions, soil and plant type, there may be a need for storage of the wastewater. An alternative to storage, if land area is not available for this purpose, is to dispose of wastewater that is excess to requirement. A combination of wastewater for irrigation and aquaculture (see below) is also an option that can be considered.

Land application for treatment of wastewater described in Section 2 (4.2.4) (Slow rate land application and grass filtration) when combined with growing of grasses for grazing by sheep or cattle plus the “cut and carry' system can properly be considered as treatment and reuse of wastewater.

6.1.2 Wastewater reuse for aquaculture

Wastewater reuse for aquaculture has been practised in many countries for a considerable period of time. It has the potential of wider application in the tropics. A special section in this Source Book is devoted to this important topic. This is placed at the end of Section 2 (6). A case study is also presented in the Regional Overview for Central & South America.

6.1.3 Wastewater reuse for industry

Treated wastewater can also be used for industrial purposes, if suitable industries are not far from the treatment plant. Industry’s requirement for water quality ranges widely, from very pure water for boilers of electricity generation to lower water quality for cooling towers. Treated wastewater can fulfil the lower range of this requirement, e.g. water for cooling towers. Secondary-treated wastewater after chlorination may be adequate for this purpose.

With off-site treatment plants reuse of wastewater may be limited by the need to pipe treated wastewater to where it is needed. To implement wastewater reuse in houses for toilet flushing, watering of gardens and other purposes which do not need drinking quality water, a third pipe-reticulation system is required, that is in addition to the reticulation to provide drinking water and the sewer to collect the wastewater. Care is also needed to prevent cross-connection between drinking water and treated wastewater.

'Sewer mining' is the term given to the withdrawal of wastewater from a sewer for reuse near to the point of withdrawal. This provides an opportunity for reuse without having to pipe treated wastewater from the centralised treatment plant. Wastewater needs to be treated to the standard required for the reuse, and may duplicate the function of the centralised treatment plant.

 

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