Greywater Irrigation in Rural Areas of Jordan: Opportunities for Saving Fresh Water and Poverty Reduction
During the year 2000, the IDRC supported INWRDAM in conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the potential for greywater reuse in rural areas of Jordan. This evaluation resulted in initiating Phase I of a greywater research project that was implemented in Ein Al-Baida, of Tafilah Governorate, southern Jordan, from May 2001 to May 2003. Phase I resulted in developing and evaluating five different types of on-site greywater treatment units. Two out of the five units were selected as potential units for further improvement and scale-up. In Phase II, the designs were further developed to make them more practical and less costly to operate.
The units were installed at 110 households to irrigate their gardens with wastewater of appropriate quality. This pilot project was successful in several aspects. It lowered the demand for drinking water and for pumping sewerage from septic tanks, it provided additional income for participating households, and it continues to serve as an example for other locations.
Initially, the communities in the project area utilised fresh water from the tap to irrigate their gardens. There was no separation of greywater from the black. Therefore, the whole stream flowed into the household septic tank, which required frequent pumping as it filled quickly. The cost of extra fresh water and the cost of frequent pumping placed a real cost burden on families.
During the year 2000, the IDRC supported INWRDAM to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the potential for greywater reuse in rural areas of Jordan. This evaluation resulted in initiating Phase I of greywater research project, which was implemented in Ein Al-Baida, of Tafilah Governorate, southern Jordan, from May 2001 to May 2003. Phase I resulted in developing and evaluating five different types of on-site greywater treatment units. Two of the five were selected as potential units for further improvement and scale-up. One module is now known as the 4-barrel unit, and the other is known as the confined trench unit (CT).
The 4-barrel unit consists of four recycled plastic barrels connected by 3-inch diameter plastic pipes. The first barrel of 50-litre capacity receives greywater coming from the house and removes grease, oil and settable solids. After that, two 200-litre barrels are connected by pipes in such a way that greywater passes in an up-flow mode through a bed of crushed stones or gravel and achieves physical and biological treatment. A final barrel of 160-litres is fitted with a small electric pump and float switch that delivers treated greywater to a trickle irrigation system serving a small garden of trees.
Phase II further improved the design and operation of both the 4-barrel and CT units so that routine cleaning was made easier. The improvements also solved problems with pump priming and improved agricultural practices, resulting in increased family incomes and reduced impact of greywater on soil, plants and the environment. Local community participation in Phase II was emphasised, and modalities for beneficiary contributions in the ownership of the greywater treatment units were tested.
There was some initial resistance to the idea of using greywater, both among households and local officials. Some were sceptical and unconvinced that the system would work, or afraid that it would be too expensive and difficult to maintain. Others worried about odours and mosquitoes. But the community quickly became enthusiastic once the system was demonstrated.
The greywater reuse system was introduced as a pilot project involving 110 low-income families that used the treated wastewater to irrigate their gardens.
According to the survey conducted by the project team (which covered 60 beneficiary households), the following indicators were identified:
- The researchers installed water meters that showed that initial water savings were at least 15%.
- An unexpected cost-saving for users of the system was that septic tanks did not have to be emptied as frequently as before.
- The distribution of additional annual revenue from the project for the surveyed households is shown in the figure below (number of cases) (see table)
Moreover, households enjoy a more reliable supply of fresh water because agriculture uses less of it. The greywater is a reliable water resource, as it does not depend on weather. Families also saved costs on fertilisers, experienced increased crop yield, and were able to preserve their traditional means of livelihood. An additional benefit of the practice is a reduced discharge of effluents into the environment.
The Ministry of Water and Irrigation was impressed with the results of the projects, but remained cautious. Officials monitored the quality of the greywater used for irrigation for one year, and the system passed the test. “Greywater from our treatment units met the WHO’s standard for restricted irrigation,” said Dr Murad Bino. “This means it is fit for irrigating trees and crops that must be cooked before they are eaten.”
The Ministry of Planning was so impressed with the results that it supported the construction of a further 700 systems in 90 communities across the country, based on the INWRDAM model. As a bonus, the new technology has created a local business enterprise involving engineers, plumbers and contractors. A local company is now producing an environmentally friendly detergent to replace the treatment units developed by Dr Bino, and his INWRDAM team meets WHO standards for restricted irrigation.
- Served more than 110 low-income families
- Average annual revenue from greywater reuse was USD 187.86 per family
- Created a platform of cooperation between researchers from INWRDAM and key stakeholder ministries concerned with wastewater, agriculture, social development, environment, public health and planning
- Drafted proposed guidelines for domestic greywater in peri-urban areas of Jordan
- Low cost of technology
- Short payback period
- Local community acceptance of the idea of greywater reuse
- Water savings of 15 percent for participating households
- Lower frequency of the need to empty septic tanks
- Increased annual revenue for participating households
The socioeconomic impacts of the project encourage the expansion of greywater reuse to other regions of Jordan with similar conditions.
Word of the success of the greywater recycling project has spread beyond Jordan to many of its equally thirsty neighbours, thanks in part to the Department of Statistics, which published the results of the initial projects on its website. Greywater reuse projects are now underway in Lebanon, Syria and West Bank and Gaza, and several other countries have indicated interest in the technology.
- The total cost of an average CT system is USD 303.68, and USD 261.30 for an average 4-barrel system.
- The average annual operation and maintenance cost is USD 39.55.
Dr. Murad Bino
+962 6 5332993
- Studies of IDRC Supported Research on Greywater in Jordan conducted by INWRDAM: https://idl-bnc.idrc.ca/dspace/bitstream/10625/36832/1/127769.pdf
- Bob Stanley. “Dealing with the Water Deficit in Jordan: Recycling household water to irrigate home gardens makes good environmental and financial sense”, Urban Poverty and Environment Programme Initiative, IDRC: https://www.idrc.ca/sites/default/files/sp/Documents%20EN/dealing-with-water-deficit-jordan.pdf