Treated Wastewater in Agriculture: Use and Impacts on the Soil Environment and Crops

Editor(s): Guy J. Levy, Pinchas Fine, Asher Bar-Tal
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK
ISBN 13: 9781405148627
Published: 2011
Pages: 464
Cost: $199.99
Rating (1-5): 4
Reviewed By: McLain, Jean E.

Reviews of the potential environmental and health effects of the utilization of treated wastewater for irrigation.

In many parts of the world, especially in semiarid and arid regions, the sustainability of irrigated agriculture is threatened by dwindling water supplies. As treatment technologies improve the quality of the finished product, water recycling and the use of treated municipal sewage effluents for agriculture, industry, and non-potable urban and environmental applications can extend limited water supplies in areas afflicted by water scarcity. In addition to this benefit, the use of treated wastewater can also contribute nutrients to irrigated soils, thereby contributing to the conservation of diminishing resources. However, risks inherent in the use of wastewater for crop irrigation include reduction in yield due to increased salinity and/or specific ion toxicity, and migration of biological and chemical pollutants towards surface and groundwater. The need to increase understanding on how treated wastewater quality interacts with soil and crop characteristics to affect the sustainability of wastewater irrigation highlights the utility of a volume containing details on the state of current knowledge, and discussing the advantages and limitations, of this practice.

This edited hardcover should appeal to researchers and graduate students in a variety of disciplines, including water engineering, soil science, and plant physiology. The book would be best understood by readers with a firm understanding of agronomic and soil science and plant ecology. The scope of the book is enormous, and draws on the knowledge of a range of experts to cover the current knowledge of treated wastewater irrigation, ranging from human health guidelines to mineral and biological soil impacts. The list of authors is impressive, with international representation of researchers from a vast number of fields, and with each chapter author expert in their respective field.
The first part of this volume includes four chapters detailing current knowledge of the technical, regulatory, and economic aspects of the reuse of treated wastewater. Chapter 1 covers different wastewater treatment technologies, and Chapters 2 and 3 discuss current risks to public health inherent in the use of recycled wastewater, and include details on biological and chemical constituents of wastewater that guide current regulations. Chapter 4 covers the economics of wastewater use, including a well-thought out approach to pricing and cost allocation associated with the use of treated wastewater by both large and small farming communities. The second part of the volume (Chapters 5 through 14), includes separate chapters on individual constituents of concern, including nutrients, heavy metals, and organic matter. Chapter 14, the final chapter, details work by Russo et al., who studied the transport of sodium and calcium salts in soils. It is unclear why this information was provided as a standalone chapter rather than included in Chapter 5 (Major Minerals) or Chapter 8 (Salinity). However, each chapter in the book is well organized, serves as an excellent review of the current literature, and contains numerous informational tables and figures. Each chapter ends with extensive reference lists that will lead the reader to additional relevant articles for each topic.

In summary, this volume provides reviews, written by internationally recognized experts, of the potential environmental and health effects (positive and negative) of the utilization of treated wastewater for irrigation. The central role that irrigated agriculture plays in food production heightens the need for a comprehensive review, written from both from the agricultural and environmental perspectives.