The reuse of treated wastewater is an action within the framework of integrated water resources management, which the Water Framework Directive (WFD) considers as a measure to solve problems related to water scarcity.
Reuse is a high-value technique for irrigation agriculture. Therefore, its use is a fact which gives cause for concern to consumers and to health and environmental authorities.
In the agri-food sector, as well as in all the sectors which conform the so-called bioeconomy, the challenge is to make it possible to produce food products, of higher quality, at reasonable prices while reducing the impact from its production.
From all the water consumed by the industry in Spain, agri-food industries and livestock farms represent 17 %, percentage that is increased in cases such as the beverage industries, which incorporate the water consumed as part of their final product. These percentages could be considerably reduced through water reuse.
For water reuse in a food process, it is necessary to apply innovative technologies that guarantee water quality (being known as «reclaimed water») when it is incorporated into the food industry, one of the sectors with the highest requirements in terms of quality.
In spite of the fact that current legislation allows it and shows the requirements for using reclaimed water in the different stages of the agri-food industries, this fact does not confirm that they can subsequently be applied by requirements at autonomous level. For this reason, the food industries hardly make use of reclaimed water in their facilities, even though they comply with the regulations; representing only 2.4 %, a figure considerably lower than that of the manufacturing industry as a whole, which stands at 8.9 % (Data retrieved from the Survey on the use of water in the industrial sector. INE 1999). For this reason, it is an action that LIFE MCUBO wishes to encourage.
Within the LIFE MCUBO’s actions, several studies with reclaimed water are being carried out in different food sector to prove its effect on food products and the potential for resource savings through reuse, as well as working closely with regional governments to encourage this reuse.