(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordanian fruits and vegetables irrigated by treated wastewater are safe, fit for human consumption and meet strict international standards, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The report was compiled as part of a programme for monitoring pathogens in fruits and vegetables irrigated by treated wastewater in the Jordan Valley during the 2011-2012 agricultural season.
Lab tests were conducted on 400 samples of different kinds of fruits and vegetables over the past year to measure any existence of pathogenic pollution, heavy metals or nitrates in agricultural produce irrigated by the treated wastewater in the Jordan Valley.
"We are proud that results of the report showed that fruits and vegetables irrigated by treated wastewater in the Jordan Valley are safe and highly in accordance with international standards," Minister of Water and Irrigation, Mohammad Najjar, said during a workshop to announce results of the report .
Under the monitoring programme, teams collected half the samples from farms in the Jordan Valley and the other half from produce on sale at the Amman Central Market.
The samples covered all types of fruits, leafy vegetables and root crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, lettuce, mint, spinach and carrots.
"Lab tests on samples examined during the 2011-2012 agricultural season showed 100 per cent conformity with local and international standards," the report indicated.
In addition, the report revealed that samples collected during the 2010-2011 season were also 100 per cent safe, while the percentage stood at 89 per cent during the 2009-2010 season and 94 per cent during the 2008-2009 season.
Jordan currently treats 114 million cubic metres (mcm) of wastewater annually, the majority of which is used for irrigation and industrial purposes, Najjar said.
"Scant resources and rising demand over water led us to use all alternative resources, including treated wastewater. Now, 65 per cent of exported fruits and vegetables come from the Jordan Valley, which uses a third of the country's irrigation water allocations," the minister underscored.
Nasser Hosani, head of the agricultural marketing division at the Agriculture Ministry, noted that Jordan exported 841,000 tonnes of vegetables and 545,000 tonnes of fruits to regional and international markets in 2011.
"Revenues from fruit and vegetable exports last year totalled JD795 million, while agricultural produce constituted 16.6 per cent of the country's exports in 2011," Hosani said.
The major fruits and vegetables exported last year were tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, eggplants, bell peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, lettuce and oranges.
Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) Secretary General, Saad Abu Hammour, said that the "reassuring results" of the report would encourage the authorities to expand the use of treated water for crop irrigation in the Jordan Valley.
"It is important to increase the exploitation of treated wastewater, which serves as a renewable water resource. This allows the ministry to redistribute water amounts and allocate fresh water for drinking purposes," Abu Hammour underscored.
In previous statements to the press, the JVA official noted that there are plans to raise the amount of treated wastewater to 240mcm by the year 2020.
The programme for monitoring pathogens in fruits and vegetables irrigated by treated wastewater in the Jordan Valley was launched in 2004.
It is supported by the Jordanian-German Water Programme and implemented by the Jordan Food and Drug Administration, in cooperation with the JVA and the National Centre for Agricultural Research and Guidance.
Experts and officials encourage farmers to use treated wastewater for irrigation because it is a sustainable water resource that can also save farmers in the Jordan Valley JD4 million worth of fertiliser every year.
Experts say that one of the many advantages of treated wastewater reuse is in reducing the use of synthetic fertilisers, because treated wastewater is already rich in plant nutrients.
Studies conducted by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the JVA indicate that each 35-dunum farm unit could save JD1,000-JD3,000 in fertiliser costs each year if it used treated wastewater.