MeProWaRe – Novel methodology for the promotion of treated wastewater reuse for Mediterranean crops improvement
ERANET-Water JPI call “Waterworks 2014”
More than 60% of the global population will undergo water scarcity by the year 2025, and agriculture is the largest water consumer with 70% of the world consumption (AQUASTAT-FAO 2015). Therefore, under the current pressure on freshwater resources, water allocation for agriculture is a great scientific, economic, and political challenge. Recovery of treated wastewater for irrigation is then crucial to the sustainability of agriculture and the survival of rural settlements.
The project MeProWaRe funded within the ERANET/Water JPI co-funded call “Waterworks 2014” recently came to an end. The project introduced an innovative methodology for treated wastewater reuse in irrigation, specifically addressing well-defined types of crops, agronomic practices, and water constraints that are typical of Mediterranean countries.
Aim and objectives
The main aim of the MeProWaRe project was to highlight the positive relationships between treated wastewater reuse, plants growth, and crops productivity with specific reference to the Mediterranean area. To obtain this, in a framework of water and nutrient use efficiency, reuse practices were made more easily acceptable by stakeholders through their direct participation to the implementation of the proposed methodology.
The specific objectives of the MeProWaRe were to:
- Demonstrate the positive effects of treated wastewater reuse for irrigation, also combined with other sources, in terms of quality and yield of the selected cultures (olives and vine);
- Apply specific modelling tools to water and nutrient optimization in agricultural practices;
- Promote treated wastewater acceptance by analysing stakeholders’ behaviour, and assess the barriers to effective communication between scientific communities and stakeholders;
- Contribute to treated wastewater cost allocation by integrating non-conventional cost/benefit and environmental evaluation methods.
Field activities were carried out at three demonstration sites located in Italy (Acquaviva Delle Fonti, Puglia), Spain (Albacete, Castilla La Mancha), and Portugal (Lisbon), where irrigation with treated wastewater and conventional sources was carried out on selected crops (olive and grapes). After the definition of a common analytical protocol, water, soils, and plants were monitored at the three sites, and the results were compared to assess the suitability and effects of the different water resources adopted in terms of crops quality and yields.
Economic and environmental impacts calculated at the Italian demo site
(CW: Conventional Water; TW: Treated Wastewater).
In terms of technical innovation, the MeProWater project allowed the development of a methodology based on blending treated wastewater with conventional water sources (to match irrigation needs, savings of natural resources, and recovered nutrient supply according to the phenological needs of the crops). In addition, the quality of the treated wastewater at the three test sites was compared allowing the assessment of the effects of their uses for irrigation of olive trees and vines in terms of product quality, yield, and plant physiology. Modelling and simulation of evapotranspiration (dual Kc approach) and nutrient balance (RZWQM) was also tested to optimize water and nutrient needs.
Besides technical aspects mainly related to water engineering and agronomy, socio-ecomomic innovation was also produced, including (i) the development of information sharing strategies through water users’ behavioural models (cognitive mapping); (ii) Stakeholders’ involvement through direct participation to the activities and (ii) the demonstration of cost effectiveness and environmental sustainability of treated wastewater reuse in irrigation through the Water Footprint Sustainability assessment.
MEPROWARE stakeholders analysis (cognitive map, Italy)
Conclusions and implications
Water: Reclaimed municipal wastewater was comparable in quality to conventional sources at all demonstration sites.
Agronomy : Adoption of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation of grapes and olives provided similar agronomic results of irrigation with conventional sources, and contributed to savings on primary water resources.
Modelling: The modelling tools adopted for the evaluation of evapotranspiration and nutrient flows in soil and plants provided good simulations, and their results were consistent with the experimental observations making them suitable as forecasting tools.
Stakeholders: Analysis of stakeholders’ behaviour was carried out using appropriate modelling tools (mental models, FCM), which allowed the identification of relevant influencing factors.
Footprint: The environmental and economic footprints of water reuse were evaluated through quantitative models; whose results provided a practical analysis of positive and negative impacts.
Project coordinator and partners
- IRSA CNR, Italy – Dr. Ing. Alfieri Pollice – (coordinator)
- University of Castilla La Mancha (CREA), Spain
- University of Lisbon (ISA LEAF), Portugal
- CIHEAM IAMB, Italy.
For further information on the MePRoWaRe project:
Dr. Ing. Alfieri Pollice
IRSA CNR, Italy