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UN forecasts rising reuse of wastewater for agriculture

World lacks data on "massive potential resource", with only 4% of wastewater reused.

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UN-backed study says annual treated wastewater in North America roughly equals volume of Niagara Falls; less than 4 percent is reused

Amid growing competition for freshwater from industry and cities, coupled with a rising world shortage of potash, nitrogen and phosphorus, an international study predicts a rapid increase in the use of treated wastewater for farming and other purposes worldwide.

However, research shows that treated wastewater -- comparable in North America alone to the volume of water flowing over Niagara Falls -- is mostly unused and, in many nations, not even quantified.

Of 181 countries studied, only 55 have information on three key aspects of wastewater: generation, treatment, and reuse. Another 69 countries have data on one or two aspects, 57 countries show no information on any aspect.

As well, in countries where data does exist it is mostly outdated: almost two-thirds (63%) of the numbers are five or more years old, according to the study led by Japan's Tottori University and the United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

As water supplies fall and stress rises in many areas, the potential resource of wastewater is being widely recognized, says the study published in the journal Agricultural Water Management. Water demands already exceed supplies in regions...

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