Can constructed wetlands treat wastewater for reuse in agriculture? Review of guidelines and examples in South Europe

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

South Europe is one of the areas negatively affected by climate change. Issues with water shortage are already visible, and are likely to increase. Since agriculture is the biggest freshwater consumer, it is important to find new water sources that could mitigate the climate change impact. In order to overcome problems and protect the environment, a better approach towards wastewater management is needed. That includes an increase in the volume of wastewater that is treated and a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable system where wastewater is actually considered as a resource. This study evaluates the potential of constructed wetlands (CWs) to treat domestic wastewater and produce effluent that will be suitable for reuse in agriculture. In South Europe, four countries (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) have national standards that regulate wastewater reuse in agriculture. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) that are based on CWs in these four countries were analysed and their effluents compared with the quality needed for reuse. In general, it was found that CWs have trouble reaching the strictest standards, especially regarding microbiological parameters. However, their effluents are found to be suitable for reuse in areas that do not require water of the highest quality.

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