Wastewater could help farmers save crops in dry weather


Aquafin, Flanders’ wastewater treatment centre, is talking to farmers about using their product to ensure crop production as the dry spell carries on

Low water reserves

Wastewater treatment facility Aquafin is in talks with Flemish farmers about using treated wastewater on their crops. The idea has emerged as municipalities struggle with conserving water during a summer that is warmer than usual and with little rain.

Because Flanders is densely populated, water reserves in some areas are generally low. A plentiful annual rainfall means that this is rarely a problem.

But last month was the dryest June on record in more than 40 years. It was also abnormally warm, with an average daily temperature of 18°C comparied to the usual 16°C. The last day of June was the warmest ever recorded, at 29.7°C.

Nearly 140 cities and towns in Flanders are on yellow alert, with residents and businesses being asked to save water where they can. The farmers have become concerned, however, with the low water reserves.

Aquafin is tasked with wastewater treatment in Flanders. Water that winds up in the sewer from homes and industrial processes is chemically and biologically treated and released back into streams and rivers.

This one billion cubic metres of water does not pass quality norms for human consumption, but it does meet strict EU guidelines for release into natural water sources. But the water can also be used for a number of other applications, which could be very good news for local farmers.

According to Engineeringnet.org Aquafin is approaching farmers’ organisations to discuss the purchase of treated wastewater, which is already bought up by industry for cooling processes. It’s also being used right now in Nieuwpoort during the Green Sculpture Festival to keep the sculptures, created from plants and flowers, fresh.

In terms of how families can help conserve water, VRT offers these tips:

  • Take showers instead of baths, and keep them short
  • Skip washing the car or spraying off the terrace for a few weeks
  • Don’t refill swimming pools or ponds
  • Build up rainwater throughout the  year to use on flowers and plants when water reserves run low