Treated municipal wastewater as a water source for aquacultural fish production

January 2, 2022
Treated municipal wastewater as a water source for aquacultural fish production

Aquaculture is currently the fastest-growing food production sector due to the growing demand for fish and the inability of ocean-caught fish to meet this demand. Declining freshwater availability is becoming a major limiting factor in fish production. One alternative water source already widely applied in agriculture is treated municipal wastewater. Though this has been used in agriculture and aquaculture worldwide for centuries, scarce scientific attention has been paid to treated wastewater reuse in aquaculture.

The feasibility of growing fish in treated wastewater, including their safety for human consumption, was investigated by Ph.D. student Dr. Inbal Zaibel and her supervisors, Prof. Shai Arnon (ZIWR) and Prof. Dina Zilberg (FAAB) both at Ben Gurion University of The Negev's Bluestein Institutes for Desert Research. The study revealed that the performances of treated-wastewater-grown fish, including their growth rate, survival, and disease resistance, were comparable to fish grown in tap water.They also concluded that the fish are safe for humans to eat, in terms of microbiological contamination and the bioaccumulation of heavy metals and certain organic micropollutants, with levels found to be in accordance with international standards.


 Stocked fish captured for analyses with local fisherman in the background

Reuse of treated wastewater as an alternative water source for aquaculture can be economically and environmentally advantageous. Sociocultural barriers can be overcome by a combination of further research, legislation, and public relations, enabling fish production in urban areas, wherever wastewater treatment is applied.