Creating incentives for more effective wastewater reuse in the Middle East and North Africa

Creating incentives for more effective wastewater reuse in the Middle East and North Africa

Systematic water recycling remains rare in many arid and semi-arid countries, for example in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This paper argues that much of the relative failure to make greater use of reclaimed wastewater in MENA in particular can be linked to incentive problems related to managing the external effects associated with wastewater discharges.

The paper clarifies that because these external effects have rarely been accounted for and dealt with, it is generally quite difficult to encourage investment in approved and safe reuse. Furthermore, the author develops a simple conceptual model with two users, one high-value (e.g. municipal/industrial) and the other low-value (e.g. agricultural). The model relates to current conditions in MENA countries, and is used to explore the reasons for which widespread wastewater reuse remains a significant challenge.

As a result, the document identifies some of the key constraints that inhibit more widespread wastewater reuse, and proposes a number of actions that MENA countries can pursue to improve its prospects. These include improving cost recovery by raising water tariffs, extending wastewater management and treatment services, and pursuing targeted or national reuse opportunities that are appropriate given the existing levels of development and sustainability in the sector.