ISO committee advances water recycling for agriculture and other purposes

I recently returned from beautiful Vancouver, Canada, where I participated in several working groups belonging to the International Standard Organization’s Technical Committee for Water Re-use (ISO/TC 282), which I chair. The committee aims to create standards for water reuse in agricultural, industrial and municipal settings.

With limited new water sources worldwide, water reuse offers great potential in the pursuit of effective global water conservation. On the economic level, it relieves potable water demand, ensures a reliable water supply, and is a low-cost option compared to water importation and other alternatives. On an environmental level, it reduces pollution in rivers and estuaries, restores river and lake wetlands, and restores groundwater levels.

Our May 25-29 working group meetings in Vancouver are part of the ongoing efforts of the ISO/TC 282’s three subcommittees – SC1: Treated Wastewater Re-use for Irrigation, SC2: Water Re-use in Urban Areas, and SC3: Risk and Performance Evaluation of Water Re-use Systems. Warmly hosted by our wonderful Canadian colleagues, last month’s discussions focused on areas ranging from treated wastewater use for irrigation projects, through centralized system design and system management, to reclaimed water safety evaluation.

The three subcommittees are headed by China, Japan and my home country, Israel, which has set the global standard for water reuse. We recycle about 85% of our effluent (Singapore is a distant second at 35%) through a range of local treatment facilities that differ in technology, size and output.

Nearly all of Israel’s recycled water is used for landscaping and agriculture. Given that agriculture consumes about 70% of the world’s overall fresh water supply, water reuse in the sector can make a real difference. Wastewater irrigation is particularly beneficial in water-scarce developing countries, since it can be utilized all-year-round, lowers the need to purchase fertilizer, reduces energy costs, and enables cultivation of high-value crops.

In developing regulatory guidance for water reuse, our committee is doing its share to advance widespread adoption of recycling for agricultural, industrial and municipal purposes.

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