Researchers at the University of California, Riverside and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have launched a two-year study of the use of treated wastewater in agriculture, a study they hope will lead to viable and cost-effective regional water reuse policies.

Kurt Schwabe, associate professor of environmental economics and policy and the project’s principal investigator, said the team will review existing research on using treated wastewater to improve the reliability of local water supplies; study the impact of treated wastewater on crop yields; and evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of new technologies for using treated wastewater on landscaping and agriculture.

The project, “Enhanced Resilience of Local Agricultural Water Supplies through Reuse of Municipal and Agricultural Water: A Dynamic Economic Analysis,” will initially be funded with a seed grant of approximately $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund partnership with Israel.

“The long-term goal is to determine the most cost-effective approach to utilizing treated wastewater with an eye toward water supply reliability and maintaining water quality standards,” Schwabe explained. “Given the integral role wastewater reuse will play in an agency’s water supply portfolio, a clearer understanding of reuse possibilities and their implications on agency costs can be helpful. Yet to identify cost-effective solutions to these problems requires an interdisciplinary approach. Collaborating with researchers in engineering, economics and soil science is a much more effective strategy to solve issues than a piecemeal or siloed approach.”