Wastewater: a valuable resource rather than a burden?

Ayash Mohamed Anwar is the author of this article

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The UK is currently facing a series of droughts resulting in an urgent need for a solution to address potential water shortages. A report released by the UK government stated that only 0.02% of wastewater was reused in the UK in 2020. Treated wastewater can be reused for a range of non-potable purposes such as agriculture, land, irrigation, industrial reuse, toilets, and construction activities. The possibility of reusing wastewater is drawing increased attention due to the rising cost of freshwater and the current use of advanced treatment options which provide the ability to process and produce high-quality treated wastewater effluent. One example of where water is used in large quantities for irrigation on a regular basis and over expansive areas is golf courses.

On average, a golf course would use approximately 378.5 m3 to 3,785 m3 of water per week in the summer months. The use of recycled wastewater for golf course irrigation has the following advantages:

  • the need to be dependent on river, well and lake water sources can be avoided;
  • recycled wastewater can be used during drought seasons to avoid water shortages;
  • nutrient leaching to groundwater can be minimized as the turf grass has a high tolerance to absorbing increased quantities of nitrogen and other nutrients;
  • the investment required to build new water supply systems can be greatly reduced.

The quality of water used for irrigation plays an important role in the management of turf grass and other plants present at a golf course. Most wastewater treatment works have a final polishing step or a tertiary treatment step which produces a high-quality effluent that can be reused for irrigation purposes; however, its physical, chemical, and biological parameters must be analysed prior to irrigation to avoid the reduction in turf grass quality and to prevent any risks to public health. Recycled wastewater can contain high concentrations of salts, other minerals, and heavy metals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, sulphate, nitrate, and boron. It is important to take into consideration that high concentrations of these elements can cause damage to the soil and plants. Recycled wastewater can successfully be used for irrigation if the water quality parameters such as the total salt content, toxic ion levels, sodium levels, bicarbonate levels, and pH are in accordance with the golf course irrigation standards. A microbial risk assessment should also be conducted to understand the risk level to the golfers, the ground staff, and the general public. Critical microbiological limits must be set for the irrigation water to prevent any public health issues. Apart from ensuring health, safety and quality standards are met, it is also important to make the population aware of the positive outcomes of using wastewater for golf course irrigation.

Public perception plays an important role in the reuse of wastewater. The social and environmental concerns associated with the reuse of wastewater is a crucial reason as to why many industries and sectors avoid the reuse of wastewater. There is currently adequate evidence and information available for golf course officials to understand the benefits of the reuse of treated wastewater effluent for golf course irrigation and be able to address any health and environmental concerns from members of the public.

The reuse of wastewater for different purposes could prove beneficial to not only the environment, but also the industry. The reuse could contribute to reducing water shortages and help businesses in saving more capital. United Nations - Water Sustainable Development goal 6, target 6.3, provides a focus on substantially increasing the recycling and safe reuse of wastewater by 2030 to address some of the ongoing environmental concerns. Every individual and industry using large quantities of water needs to ask themselves whether they are making sure they are working towards this goal in an impactful way.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Ayash Mohamed Anwar

Graduate Water Process Engineer

As a graduate process engineer from the university of Manchester, Ayash currently works as part of the Treatment Team in Water and Environment at WRc. Ayash has been involved with a range of WRc Portfolio projects including the disinfection forum and odour management user group, as well as developing courses for training modules such as drinking water quality sampling and analysis; foundation of water quality and the environment; urban pollution management; and the wastewater management course.

2023-07-04 14:00:00