Water recycling was being considered more seriously by experts and enterprises as a solution for natural resources management, said Dr Nguyen Phuoc Dan, head of Environment Department at the HCM City University of Technology.

Sai Gon Pearl (SSG) residential area used recycled water for irrigating small plots of land, an initiative that had saved its inhabitants more than 40 million VND (1,923 USD) a month.

The company decided to take advantage of its buildings' waste water to save about 3,000cu.m of clean water which would otherwise have cost a minimum unit rate of 12,000 VND (58 USD).

A daily 600cu.m of waste water was treated and purified to meet the requirements for irrigating water which was to be odourless and to contain no pathogenic micro-organism.

Recycled water used by the SSG had also been certified by the Institute of Labour Protection and Environmental Technology to be of better quality than that of the Sai Gon River.

Dan said the use of reclaimed water could benefit Vietnam in many ways.

First, it could ease the problem of fresh water shortages on islands and in coastal areas as well as in populated urban areas.

In particular, big city water consumption had great potential for water recycling schemes.

The initiative would also help prevent the over-exploitation of water resources and its consequences including landslides and the salinisation of ground water.

Water recycling also allows less toxic substances to be discharged, contributing to the preservation of the aqua-ecosystem.

Many developed countries had used reclaimed water for different purposes: non-drinkable water for irrigation and cleaning in the agriculture and industrial sectors and, with treatment, for use in daily life.

However, water recycling was not yet a common option in Vietnam, Dan said, because the supply of freshwater and ground water remained plentiful, which had led to low prices and the lack of strict regulation on water exploitation.

In addition, the common perception was that recycled water was not sufficiently clean.

Dan proposed a more active role of the Government to improve the situation.

"The State could raise water prices to a reasonable level to encourage water saving while keeping a closer eye on the exploitation of water resources.

"Meanwhile, subsidies could be granted to investors in water recycling projects."

A precise framework of requirements and guides would also be essential to facilitate the promotion of water reuse, Dan said./.