Data on the extent of water reuse, its characteristics and social perception is scarce, notably for developing countries. To characterize reuse in Nicaragua, a water-rich country, use of effluents from 22 wastewater treatment plants was surveyed on-site, in combination with a literature review and surveys of government institutions, water utilities and farmers. It was found that 50% of the effluents were reused unplanned for agricultural irrigation on 247.25 ha of land. This is a 58% increase over an estimate made in 2002. The main crops irrigated were bananas, tobacco and fodder. Reuse was welcomed by farmers because it increased their income by 1.9 times. Farmers felt that government should set up programmes to control water reuse to make the practice more reliable and to increase access to treated wastewater. For water utilities, reuse was of interest as there are currently no funds available to treat wastewater to a tertiary level to control the eutrophication of surface water or to properly disinfect the effluents to meet national standards. Our results led the government institutions to consider reuse as an interesting option to control eutrophication and to improve livelihoods for farmers, provided the procedures for application of the treated wastewater are improved.
Keywords: developing countries, legislation, livelihoods, perception, policy, reuse