Use of wastewater for irrigation purposes. [Italy]

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Reporting Entity: Italy

Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights: No

Completeness: 94%

General Information

General Information

Title of best practice:

Use of wastewater for irrigation purposes.



Reporting Entity:


Property Rights

Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights:



Prevailing land use in the specified location

  • Cropland
  • Other (please specify)

Olive tree, vineyard and arable crops.

Contribution to Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) measures

  • Mitigation
  • Adaptation

Contribution to the strategic objectives

  • To improve the living conditions of affected populations
  • To improve the conditions of affected ecosystems

Linkages with the other best practice themes

  • Knowledge management and decision support
  • Funding and resource mobilization
  • Participation, collaboration and networking


Section 1. Context of the best practice: frame conditions (natural and human environment)

Short description of the best practice

The practice consisted in the purification and innovative refinement of the urban wastewate for agriculture reuse. In the summer 2009, the purified and refined water was in fact distributed for free to farmers for irrigation purposes.
The project for the application of the practice was drawn up on the initiative of the municipality of Ostuni and financed by the region of Apulia in the context of CE FESR funds for the period 1994-1999. The practice was born following the water crisis due to prolonged drought, that took place between mid-1980s and early 1990s, that caused a reduction of the availability of water collected in reservoirs and a high increasing in the use of groundwater. Consequently, the need to find new sources of water for agricultural uses strongly emerged and the reuse of reclaimed wastewater aimed to contribute to this need.
The development of the practice was facilitated also by the involvement of the local community with the Environmental Forum organized within the Agenda 21 activities. The Forum was managed in the form of a participatory platform and one of the main priorities identified for the development of the local territory was the conservation of the secular olive trees.|


Ostuni, Apulia|

If the location has well defined boundaries, specify its extension in hectares:


Estimated population living in the location:


Brief description of the natural environment within the specified location.

The climate is typically semi-arid Mediterranean. In the Ostuni municipality, the annual maximum temperatures range between 13 and 31°C, minimum temperatures 4 and 19 °C. Average annual rainfall is 550 mm. |

Prevailing socio-economic conditions of those living in the location and/or nearby

The average per capita GDP in the Ostuni area (19.600 Euro) is higher of the Apulia average (17.513 Euro) and lower than the average country value ( 30.680 Euro)  (year 2008).
Land tenure is essentially private.

On the basis of which criteria and/or indicator(s) (not related to The Strategy) the proposed practice and corresponding technology has been considered as 'best'?

The practice was considered as 'best' mainly on the basis of the analysis of its efficacy. The agricultural reuse of the municipal reclaimed wastewater, although applied at a small scale and only for one year, may be considered potentially efficient because it increased the productivity of olive trees and responded to the need to provide an irrigation source which could be an alternative to water outflow from private wells. Moreover, the availability of the reclaimed wastewater for irrigation stimulated some farmers to grow horticultural crops, thus, potentially increasing the farming income.
The economic efficiency and the effectiveness of the practice were not evaluated since it was applied for one single year. However, the municipality of Ostuni aims to reiterate the experience in the next years, but under payment request to farmers who whish to have access to the wastewater.|

Section 2. Problems addressed (direct and indirect causes) and objectives of the best practice

Main problems addressed by the best practice

Water scarcity and drought impacts on olive trees.|Sea water pollution by discharge of urban wastewater.|Overexploitation of underground water.|Intrusion of saline water into coastal acquifers.

Outline specific land degradation problems addressed by the best practice

Soil and groundwater salinization .
Low soil fertility.
Depletion of groundwater.

Specify the objectives of the best practice

To improve the efficiency of wastewater reuse for agricultural purposes.|Conservation of secular olive trees and improvement of the associated touristic value.|To improve the income of farmers trough the production of irrigated crops.|Re-establishing the balneability of the nearby coastal waters by limiting the discharge of urban wastewater.

Section 3. Activities

Brief description of main activities, by objective

Farmers' Unions collaborated with the municipality of Ostuni to promote the use of purified urban wastewater and to provide technical assistance to farmers for growing irrigated crops, as alternative to olive trees, that are not possible without irrigation.|
Distribution of purified wastewater to farmers growing olive trees (the majority of farmers in the area have olive trees).
The municipality of Ostuni  designed a municipal wastewater reuse systems for irrigation uses to be connected to the existing purification structure.
For this purpose, the Apulia regional government funded the realization of the needed infractrastures through the FESR 94-99. |Several monitoring acitivities were made to ensure the adequate funtioning of the wastewater reuse systems. The last monitoring in 2007.|In the summer 2009, the reclaimed wasterwater was provided for free through the wastewater reuse system to the farmers who have required it.

Short description and technical specifications of the technology

The urban wastewater of the municipality of Ostuni is submitted to a biological purification process and to a subsequent refinement. The purified and refined wastewater is then pumped from an open stocking basin toward the irrigation distribution grilles. The whole purification, refinement and distribution system was constructed taking into account the size of the potential irrigated area.|
The wastewater reuse system has an operative capacity of 6000 mc per day with a maximum flow of 100 L per second. The stocking basin for the purified and refined wastewater contains up to 1000 mc.  
The quality of the purified wastewater is high respecting all the legal requirements according to the table 4 of the appendix 5 of the D.L. n. 152/1999.

Section 4. Institutions/actors involved (collaboration, participation, role of stakeholders)

Name and address of the institution developing the technology

Ostuni municipality|Palazzo San Francesco, Piazza della Libertà n. 67, 72017 Ostuni.

Was the technology developed in partnership?


List the partners:

Apulia Water Association (Acquedotto Pugliese)

Specify the framework within which the technology was promoted

  • Local initiative

Was the participation of local stakeholders, including CSOs, fostered in the development of the technology?


List local stakeholders involved:

Municipality|Citizens|Farmer's union|Farmers

For the stakeholders listed above, specify their role in the design, introduction, use and maintenance of the technology, if any.

The conservation of the secolar olive trees is a priority for the local community since they associate to them a strong element of identity of their territory and one of the most important touristic attractive factors. Local institutions have interest to promote strategies for the preservation of this heritage and also for its valorization to create economic benefits to the territory (multifunctionality). Farmers attribute to olive trees a major economic value, not primarily associated with productivity, but mainly for the increased opportunities created by the access to funds finalized to the conservation of secolar olive trees and by an improved commercial allocation of their products due the promotion of the touristic flow.

Was the population living in the location and/or nearby involved in the development of the technology?


By means of what?
  • Participatory approaches
  • Other (please specify)

Articles in the local newspapers.
Advertisement on the local television and radio.


Section 5. Contribution to impact

Describe on-site impacts (the major two impacts by category)

Conservation of the local biodiversity.
Increase of the touristis flow.
Potential reduction of the groundwater salinization due to the reduction of the overexploitation of the groundwater.
Increased productivity of olive trees.
Increase of farmers' incomes by the introduction of higher-valued crops (irrigated horticultural crops) and by better market opportunities through the increasing of the tourists in the territory.
Opportunities to introduce horticultural crops in the farming systems.

Describe the major two off-site (i.e. not occurring in the location but in the surrounding areas) impacts

Development of tourist activities related to the secular olive trees leading to economic benefits to the sourrounding area.
The success of the practice (even if applied for one year) could stimulate the wasterwater reuse for agricultural purposes in other areas of the Apulia Region already equipped with the purification and refinement infrastructures but never used so far.

Impact on biodiversity and climate change

Explain the reasons:

The increased water availability has preserved the secular olive trees from the disappearance.
The duration of the practice has been too short so far to have impacts on climate change mitigation.
Increased adaptation to drought of the farming systems through the reclaimed wastewater availability for irrigation.
The positive collaboration and co-learning developed between the municipality of Ostuni and the Apulia Water Association was one of the main ingredients for the success of the practice and it could be important for future actions to increase the community capacity to adapt to environmental changes

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?


Section 6. Adoption and replicability

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?


Were incentives to facilitate the take up of the technology provided?

Were incentives to facilitate the take up of the technology provided?


Specify which type of incentives:
  • Financial incentives (for example, preferential rates, State aid, subsidies, cash grants, loan guarantees, etc)

Can you identify the three main conditions that led to the success of the presented best practice/technology?

Availability of funds (FESR 94-99) for the realization of the infrastructures.
A strong policy support (conducive political context), depending on the high environmental attitude of the regional government in the last years, that pushed the use of the refinement and reuse system for wastewater that was already available but never used. Important regional policy instruments are the Water Conservation Program and the D.R. n. 662/2006.|
Collaboration between the municipality of Ostuni and the Apulia Water Association that created reciprocal trust and develop and exchange of technical knowledge.


In your opinion, the best practice/technology you have proposed can be replicated, although with some level of adaptation, elsewhere?


At which level?
  • Local
  • Regional

Section 7. Lessons learned

Related to human resources

The involvement of the local community with the Environmental Forum organized within the Agenda 21 activities was very important to enhance the sensitivity towards the environmental issues at local scale.

Related to financial aspects

We don't have information of the cost of the entire practice, associated to the realization of the infrastructures, to the maintainance costs of the purification, refinement and distribution of wastewater system, to the promotion activities carried out by the municipality. Further data should be collected to make a financial assessment.|The costs for the realization of the purification and refinement systems were covered by FESR funds and by the municipality of Ostuni, but for their functioning and maintainance the Apulia Water Association has been responsible so far. although the D.R. n. 662/2006 established a contribution from the local community with water taxes. It is urgent to clarify these roles if the practice is expected to continue.

Related to technical aspects

The use of wastewater showed to be an efficient tool for saving water and for water quality protection. |The purification and refinement tecniques applied showed to be efficient for obtaining water suitable for irrigation and characterized by biological and chemical traits above the legal thresholds.

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