Peru: Treated waters - communal participatory management and its impact on human development and ecosystem (#436)

The lowland valley of Chancay-Lambayeque watershed is scarce of water resources, forcing farmers to irrigate with insufficiently treated waste water, resulting in severe health issues. Action was taken through the project “Future Development of San José farmer community: Wastewater” which was a collaboration between the private and the public sectors, aiming to illustrate alternative ways to irrigate. The most important lesson is that cooperation is an important instrument for development.  


The lowland valley of Chancay-Lambayeque watershed is scarce of water resources. Farmers cultivated their fields with water abstracted from nearby waste water collectors. This source of irrigation was rich in nutrients. However, these practices imposed health risks to local farmers caused be a contamination of food production by insufficiently treated waste water. The situation worsened in the years 1983-84, with cholera epidemic. Authorities took advantage of this opportunity to move local community.

Facing this situation the farmers undertook the struggle for: a) remain in the area, community land, and b) that treated waters were used for agricultural production instead of forestation, as Chiclayo Municipality proposed.

Action taken

The initiative called “Future Development of San José farmer community: Wastewater”, with the participation of public and private sectors started the process of shifting a traditional end-of-pipe solutions towards using the treated wastewater in irrigation of sandy soils for food production. Several years’ process comprised of the development of technical design of lagoons and stakeholder dialogues.

The important component of the initiative was to convince both local farmers and authorities about an alternatives showing that reuse of waste water brings both environmental and economic benefits. Finally, the project was successful to receive funds for the implementation.

As today, 8 pools were built to irrigate 250 to 350 hectare of soil and support food production of local community.

Lessons learned

  • The use of city wastewater is outside the local and regional government policies; its reuse is not a common practice. Nevertheless, they are potential water resources for agricultural development, in an area with water scarcity for irrigation.
  • Cooperation is an important instrument for development because there is a learning process on how to negotiate among diverse actors. The rationalization of human and financial resources leads to a better and larger attention to users.
  • The social, economic and environmental impacts produced by the organized management and the efficient use of treated waters by farmers, shows a rural alternative of small production in their hands. A public policy linked to farmers´ practices could facilitate the inclusion of that wastewater to agriculture, without the requirement of large treatment systems.


Photo credit: Ilker Ender