Risks and Side Effects of Irrigation with Wastewater

Water scarcity, the increasing food requirements of a growing world population and urbanization are leading to the use of wastewater for irrigation in agriculture in numerous regions of the world. This conserves resources, but also entails risks: Through wastewater, antibiotics, disinfectants and many other substances, together with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, end up in the fields, in the soil - and ultimately in our food. However, there is currently no basis for assessing the extent and relevance of these risks and how to minimize them by treating wastewater. To provide this basis, the German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding a new research group led by Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU) with around 2.5 million euros for an initial four years.

Involved from the University of Bonn are Dr. Melanie Braun and Prof. Dr. Wulf Amelung from the Department of General Soil Science and Soil Ecology and Prof. Dr. Gabriele Bierbaum, Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology.

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Wastewater, - passed through a riverbed (in Mexico).                                                © Photo: Jan Siemens