Sustainable management of water in agriculture is critical to increase agricultural production and productivity. Globally, agriculture is the largest consumer of water and accounts for nearly 70% of the water used throughout the world, the majority of which is used for irrigation. Irrigation is defined as the artificial application of water to agricultural land to assist in the growing of crops (and pastures). This can be done by letting water flow over the land ("surface irrigation"), by spraying water under pressure over the land concerned ("sprinkler irrigation"), or by bringing it directly to the plant ("localized irrigation"). Irrigation makes agriculture possible in areas previously unsuitable for intensive crop production.
In the MedAgri region, which has one of the highest levels of water scarcity in the world, careful management of water resources is an absolutely necessity and a need for continuously improving water management is therefore of paramount importance. A number of projects are now underway to modernize irrigation systems in order to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, to improve equity in access to higher-quality water and to promote more sustainable use of irrigation water to overcome current and future water deficits. A number of new non-traditional water technologies are also being developed and the MedAgri region has become one the leading regions in the world in applying non-traditional water technologies, particularly water treatment and re-use. Water re-use is the process whereby wastewater is treated to an appropriate standard and reused for a variety of purposes, including irrigation. Much wide recognition is now being given to water reuse which, when applied within a limited and controlled context, will be a critical in securing adequate water supplies. In rural areas of most developing countries, the use of sewage and wastewater for irrigation is a common practice and water reuse is believed to be one potential intervention strategy for developing non-conventional water resources.
The scarcity of water has motivated some countries in the region, (particularly Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia) to introduce wastewater treatment and reuse as an additional water resource in their national water resource management plans. To date, Egypt has over 320 wastewater treatment plants to alleviate the pressure imposed by increasing demands on fresh water resources. The capacity of these plants has increased by 10 times in the last few decades. Tunisia currently irrigates over 7,000 hectares with treated waste water for irrigation and the number of wastewater treatment plants has gradually risen to over 80 operating plants, the largest of which his situated in Choutrana. The number of wastewater treatment plants in Morocco is still low, however many exist in largest cities (Ouarzazate, Ben Sergao, Benslimane and Drarga for example) and a number of multidisciplinary projects concerning the treatment and reuse of wastewater in irrigation have been launched in the past couple of decades. Jordan?s water scarcity has led to the reuse of treated water in agriculture for many years and most of the cities are equipped with waste water treatment plants. The first wastewater treatment plant was established in 1970 and the largest water treatment plant to date is located in Khirbet As Samra. For more information on the sector, please contact Giovanni Munoz at Giovanni.Munoz@fao.org