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Martin Currie _ Aqueum gravatar image

Given the mention of WASH in the title, can I confirm that you are referring to recycling of wastewater?

If this is the case then, while I have not done any wastewater recycling projects in an emergency refugee context, I have done a number in the Middle East. I would imagine that the cultural implications are very similar.

Learning points from Middle East wastewater recycling projects are that they are often over-engineered and unnecessarily complex:

One major project uses RO polishing to create a better-than-drinking-water effluent that was originally intended for potable use but was then (for cultural perception reasons) only used for irrigation - a massive waste of money and energy, that is perpetuated due to the inflexible contract terms.

In another project, a client wanted the first grey water treatment plant in their country, however they only wanted to use the treated water for irrigation, hence full combined wastewater reuse would have been much more affordable and appropriate.

In one example of best practice at a labour camp, reed beds were used to treat the wastewater & perfect cherry tomatoes started to grow in the reed bed, due to the seeds that entered with the wastewater.

I presume when you mention livelyhoods (unless you mean recycling of metals, plastics, paper, etc.) you mean agriculture utilising biosolids and recycled water. Obviously crop selection is important, to mitigate the risk of product contamination.

My main learning point from Middle East wastewater recycling projects would be to use the whole wastewater, and don't over treat it. The nutrients that we seek to remove in conventional wastewater treatment are nutrients - hence they are good for the plants. Removing everything and then adding chemical fertiliser is pointless.

Obviously if you minimise treatment, a big pitfall to avoid is odour. It is critical to design your irrigation system well, and to design the wastewater treatment with the irrigation system in mind.

Feel free to get in touch, should you wish to discuss wastewater reuse further, I'd love to help.