Using treated waste water to irrigate vines in Languedoc

Friday July 17 2020 by Vitisphere

“We have also observed a fertigation effect, which reduces the amount of fertiliser applied by 50 to 70% depending on the amount of water used”, says Hernan Ojeda.“We have also observed a fertigation effect, which reduces the amount of fertiliser applied by 50 to 70% depending on the amount of water used”, says Hernan Ojeda. - Photo credit : BRL

Global warming has transformed irrigation into a matter of survival for vines in the driest areas of Languedoc in the South of France. The La Clape hill range near the coast is one of the worst affected, with average annual rainfall barely reaching 300 mm.

Enter the Irri-AltEau programme which since 2013 has been testing the possibility of using treated waste water from the Narbonne-Plage wastewater treatment plant for vineyard irrigation. Several partners are involved in this collaborative research project: Veolia, which is coordinating the project; irrigation system specialist Aquadoc; the Gruissan co-operative winery; the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) through its Pech Rouge experimental centre and the Narbonne Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory; and the Greater Narbonne urban community.

The trials we have conducted since 2013 have demonstrated the safety of watering with treated wastewater. The treatment process implemented produces water of at least C standard all year round, which is the regulatory quality level required for vine irrigation”, says Hernan Ojeda, a research engineer who has been monitoring the programme at the Inrae experimental site at Pech Rouge.

On the strength of these results, the programme is entering its operational phase: Irri-AltEau 2. Work will begin this winter on a “demonstrator” that will irrigate 80 hectares of vines: 45 ha in the Inra vineyard at Pech Rouge (Gruissan) and a further 35 ha belonging to seven members of the Coursan and Gruissan co-operatives. The grid itself requires an investment of €800,000, 80% financed by Europe along with the regional and county councils. The facilities should be operational from May 2021.

 

 

 

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