Updated: Feb 13
Greywater reuse for food security
"If we use (fresh)water to irrigate, we won't eat'', said a woman in rural South Africa, on a hot summer's day. "We wait for the rain to water the crops."
The statement seemed like a riddle to me; a poverty stricken community with an abundance of land to grow food crops, betting the success of their harvest on rain-during the dry season? Would it not be beneficial to allocate some of the household water to irrigating edibleplants?
Yes. However, with limited (and intermittent) water supply from communal taps, household activities such as cooking, bathing and laundry take priority. But do we need freshwater to water plants? Why not take the relatively clean wastewater from the priority activities to irrigate? Thereby increasing food security and alleviating poverty while conserving freshwater?
Being a community without any formal conveyance of wastewater, after bathing and doing the laundry, greywater is poured onto the ground. Here, a potentially viable alternative water resource, either dries out or pools (causing possible health and environmental risks). Unlike their urban counterparts where greywater is recommended for toilet flushing, pit latrine use is the order of the day. This might sound all "doomsday" but I honestly believe that the lack of sewer network can be seen as an advantage. The greywater is already in its "ready to use" form, to benefit from it, the user just has to manage it correctly.That is,with a combination of behavioral changes and technology, greywater can be beneficial in growing edible foods and supplementing nutrition.
We have long been working on supplying clean water to low-income communities, where do you think the water goes after being used? There's a riddle for you.