Safe use of effluent in agriculture and horticulture

In order to be able to use effluent from waste water treatment plants (WWTP) for irrigation in agriculture, it is being investigated which water treatment is required for this. The research mainly focuses on mapping the risks of spreading contaminants on fruit and vegetables, the health risks of this and which water treatment and monitoring is needed to prevent them.

The aim of this project is to increase the availability of high-quality irrigation water for agriculture and horticulture in times of drought and to prevent the harmful effects of too much groundwater abstraction for crops and nature. In addition to groundwater, effluent from sewage treatment plants can be made well suited as a source for irrigation. Especially in very dry periods, this is necessary to be able to replenish the limited availability of groundwater and thus reduce crop damage due to drought, while guaranteeing food safety.

Durable and also safe

To achieve this, the final quality of the irrigation water obtained from effluent is important, especially with regard to food safety. This project investigates to what extent contaminants from the effluent end up in and on the crop (fruit and vegetables), what the associated health risks are and what measures (water treatment, monitoring) are needed to minimize these risks.

Since 25 May 2020, European regulations have been in force that describe the minimum quality requirements of reused water for agricultural purposes. However, if this water is suspected that this water may also contain other components that may affect human health, an additional risk assessment is required.

With this project, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research wants to contribute to more reuse of water and combating the effects of drought and to develop concrete tools for this risk inventory. The consortium consists of knowledge institutions, water boards, agricultural interest groups and technology suppliers.