By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Wastewater treatment systems applied in Jordan for the irrigation of crops are the safest in the world, an international expert in treated wastewater reuse said on Sunday.

Jordan applies one of the safest wastewater treatment schemes, the expert said.

He made the remarks following field visits to Khirbet Al Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant and farms in the Jordan Valley to study and evaluate the quality of treated wastewater and the safety of produce irrigated with reclaimed water.

“I have seen good farming practices… Jordan applies the safest treated wastewater water schemes that I have probably ever seen in the world,” Duncan Marra, professor of civil engineering at the University of Leeds, said yesterday.

Marra made the remarks during a press conference held on the sidelines of a workshop organised by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) on establishing a risk monitoring and management system for the use of reclaimed water in agriculture in Jordan.

Almost 50 per cent of the Jordan Valley, the Kingdom’s food basket, is irrigated with freshwater in a country categorised as the fourth water-poorest nation in the world and which struggles to secure potable water for an increasing population and growing industry.

Ministry of Water and Irrigation Secretary General Maysoon Zu’bi said during the press conference that water discharged from Khirbet Al Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant meets European Union standards.

“Treated wastewater is a safe water resource for the irrigation of crops in the Jordan Valley; it has no negative impact on crop safety according to a strict risk monitoring programme and several studies,” Zu’bi told reporters.

A total of 100 million cubic metres of wastewater are treated annually, the majority of which is channelled from Khirbet Al Samra plant into the King Talal Dam, which supplies the Jordan Valley with water for irrigation, Zu’bi noted.

“In addition to being a safe and sustainable water resource, use of treated wastewater in the Jordan Valley can save farmers in the Jordan Valley JD4 million worth of fertilisers,” she underscored.

Experts say that one of the many advantages of treated wastewater reuse is saving the use of synthetic fertilisers because treated wastewater is rich in plant nutrients.

Studies conducted by GIZ and the Jordan Valley Authority indicate that each farm unit, equivalent to 35 dunums, can annually save JD1,000-JD3,000 worth of fertilisers if it used treated wastewater.

Meanwhile, Sameer Abdul Jabbar, director of the wastewater reuse project at GIZ, underscored that the proposed risk monitoring and management system consists of two parts; the first has to do with ensuring the application of a sound and effective monitoring system for water, soil and crops, while the second revolves around implementing all possible measures to eliminate or mitigate risks.

He cited risks associated with treated wastewater use, which include microbiological pathogens, chemical such as heavy metals, salts and organic compounds, in addition to physical risks such as sediments – materials that settles at the bottom of liquid.

Director of the Jordan Food and Drug Administration Mohammad Khreisha emphasised that technical studies carried out by the administration proved the safety of crops, particularly vegetables, irrigated with treated wastewater in the Jordan Valley.

“Studies have recommended the use of treated wastewater for irrigation after multiple tests confirmed the safety of crops irrigated with treated wastewater. The results are very reassuring,” Khreisha said.

Tests showed that 99.3 per cent of 10 types of vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater are free from pathogens, while over 96 per cent of samples were free from heavy metals, Khreisha noted.

The tests were carried out on several types of crops which are eaten raw, including bell pepper, mint, tomato, parsley, lettuce and cucumber, he added.

“In conclusion, use of treated wastewater for the irrigation of crops is a safe practice and has no negative impact on public health,” he underscored.