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Urban food security and resilience through wastewater

Global food security via the unlimited availability of fresh water and fertile soils

By 2050, the world will need 600% more water to produce the additional 70% of fresh produce required to feed the estimated 9 billion people.  A majority of the world's population is expected to be living in cities. This complex situation presents imminent challenges for the provision of food security and water availability alongside the rapidly growing population, expansion of cities and decline of agricultural production. This raises the question, given the current precarious situation, as to how we will be able to feed an ever-expanding global population while the availability of fertile soils and fresh water are also decreasing rapidly and threatening the agricultural production. To meet this need, the Aqua-Soil Group developed a methodology that allows growers to produce food all year round in the proximity of its city.

The depletion of water availability caused by intensification and urbanisation

Cities require an adequate supply of food, water and job creation. By 2050, 70% of the world inhabitants will live in cities, depending on food production from the rural areas. Food production commonly takes place along the riverbanks, lakes or deep wells where fresh water can be extracted. This form of production often happens far from its urbanised cores where essentially most food consumption occurs. It has even been possible to enrich soils with chemical fertilizers in areas with dry climates such as deserts. These fields have been irrigated with water coming from deep wells. However, many areas have reached their limit of agricultural production due to its increased use of water and soil nutrients. This has caused a significant increase of food prices. The combination of transportation costs, fertiliser prices, inaccessibility of fertile lands (by land grabbing) and an increasing demand has lifted these prices, which has become a global threat for food security. Cities must sustain themselves in terms of food production. The Aqua-Soil Group uses wastewater and organic waste for intensive biological food production along its city premises, which increases food security and generates employment (click here for an example).

Access to water and fertile soil by smart reuse

Urbanisation has caused cities to grow extensively which has consequently increased its demand for food and water. These same cities produce vast quantities of waste and wastewater. However, this waste can be treated and used for intensive food production. These waste streams are available all year round. This makes food production no longer dependant on natural water resources or chemical fertilizers. Additionally, this provides a year round food production for the city. Apart from enhancing food security, the labour intensive horticulture and agriculture sector will also increase the availability of low skilled jobs dramatically. Essentially the re-use of waste water and organic waste enhances positive and mitigates negative environmental and social impacts of production by generating employment, food and improved sanitation without imposing an intolerable ecological footprint. The Aqua-Soil Group therefore provides a solid concept for the future. The methodology is shown by the figure on the left.

The Aqua-Soil Group

The Aqua-Soil Group has been set up as a social enterprise to address these challenges with the objective of regaining the values from waste streams through an innovative concept that applies an affordable, efficient and applicable methodology. This approach ensures the purification of wastewater up to a quality standard that is both safe and nutritious for the irrigation of different types of crops through the separation and composting of waste.

Pleas click here for more information on the methodology.