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Agricultural irrigation with reclaimed water in Cartagena

4 June, 2050

Agricultural irrigation with reclaimed water in Cartagena

Irrigation District no. 557 ‘Isidoro García Ráez’

Waste water source

Treated effluent is produced at the Cabezo Beaza wastewater treatment plant, operated by Hidrogea Gestión Integral de Aguas de Murcia. The wastewater treatment plant receives household wastewater, grey water, storm water, and industrial water. The main water quality characteristics are Influent SS = 382 mg/L; COD = 864 mg/L and BOD5 = 427 mg/L; Effluent: SS = 9 mg/L; COD = 50 mg/L, and BOD5 = 8 mg/L; with removal efficiencies of 97.6 % for SS, 94.2 % for COD, and 98.1 % for BOD5.

Distribution System

The Irrigation District no. 557 ‘Isidoro García Ráez’ has a water distribution network with 17 km of underground pipes, and delivers pressurized water at 94 control valves.

Farming system

The Irrigation District no. 557 ‘Isidoro García Ráez’ has been using reclaimed water for more than 20 years, together with conventional sources of surface water available in the area. The most abundant food crops cultivated are horticultural crops like potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, celery, artichokes, and cauliflower that cover more than 60 % of the cultivated land, and citrus and olive trees that cover about 30 %. Orchards are managed under an intensive cultivation plan and water is provided by drip irrigation.

Waste water treatment description

Nutrient removal : Storage ponds (lagoon)
Pesticide removal : none
Disinfection : Chlorination
Suspended solids removal : none


The wastewater treatment plant has a design capacity of 12.8 hm3/year and its current treatment flow is 7.3 hm3/year.

Extent of the agricultural beneficiaries

The Irrigation District no. 557 ‘Isidoro García Ráez’ has 274 members and manages 6,643 ha of agricultural land; of those, 4,453 ha receive surface water from the Tajo-Segura aqueduct.


The annual budget of agricultural irrigation with reclaimed water at the Irrigation District no. 557 ‘Isidoro García Ráez’ has a capital cost of 469,192 €, an operating and maintenance cost of 66,721 € and a labor cost of 240,069 €, adding to a total annual cost of 775,982 €. The unit prize of reclaimed water supplied to Irrigation District members is 0.05 €/m³.

Type of agreement

Agricultural irrigation at the Irrigation District no. 557 ‘Isidoro García Ráez’ operates under an agreement with the city of Cartagena and the water operating company Hidrogea S.A.. The water reclamation process is operated by Hidrogea S.A., while Irrigation District no. 557 is responsible for the distribution of reclaimed water and the supervision of the water pumping stations.

Scientific results

Peer-reviewed articles:

Pedrero, F., Maestre-Valero, J.F., Mounzer, O. Alarcón, J.J., Nicolás, E. (2014). Physiological and agronomic mandarin trees performance under saline reclaimed water combined with regulated deficit irrigation. Agricultural Water Management 146: 228-237.

Pedrero, F., Mounzer, O., Alarcón, J.J., Bayona, J.M., Nicolás, E. (2012).The viability of irrigating mandarin trees with saline reclaimed water in a semi-arid Mediterranean region: a preliminary assessment. Irrigation Science 31(4):759-768.

The main conclusions reached during the first crop season were: 1) the high rainfall recorded served to evaluate the equipment available for detecting rapid changes of salinity and nutrients; 2) the space and time distribution of rainfall observed during the crop cycle resulted in great uniformity among plots, thus preventing the detection of any influence of water use on final production and masking the potential adverse effects of salinization; 3) moderate correlations (R2 ≤ 0.50) were found between the ECextract and the different salinity indexes, prompting the need for additional drone flights, as well as for soil and plant analyses, to determine which salinity index provides the best results; 4) farmers should be advised to adopt the agronomic practice of applying an intense irrigation period after each crop cycle, to leach out the salts deposited and avoid its accumulation; 5) the preservation of an intensive and profitable agriculture, respectful of the environment requires innovative agricultural irrigation projects that use non-conventional water resources, such as reclaimed water, together with advanced information technologies.

Additional information


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Type of initiative
Private initiative, Research initiative
Waste water source
Manufacturing Industry, Municipal
Waste water treatment
Nutrient removal, Desinfection
Farming system
Arable land, Permanent crops
Application use
Irrigation of food crops to be eaten raw, Irrigation of processed food crops
Irrigation method
Drip irrigation
Implementation stage
Full implementation