Using recycled water for food crops

If you use recycled water to irrigate food crops in the Northern Territory (NT) there are rules you must follow to prevent contaminating your produce.

You risk contaminating food if your recycled water is of a poor quality.

The risk of contamination from recycled water can depend on:

  • water quality
  • your choice of irrigation system
  • the type of crop you are growing
  • how you handle the food after harvest
  • the processing involved.

Using recycled water

If you want to use a recycled water system for irrigating food crops, you will need wastewater works design approval.

You should only use recycled water if you have had a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) or equivalent food industry risk assessment. 

For more information or to find out how to get an assessment, go to the HACCP website.

Guidelines and standards

You should read the guidelines for management of recycled water systems.

Draft guidelines for wastewater works design approval for recycled water systems (1011.1 kb)
Draft guidelines for wastewater works design approval for recycled water systems (1.2 mb)

Food sold in the NT is regulated under the NT Food Act and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Read the law.

The microbiological standards for the use of recycled water for irrigating food crops are represented in the table below.

Type of commercial food cropMethod of irrigation and onsite preventative measuresE.coli
Crops consumed raw or unprocessed - carrots, broccoli, onions, cabbage and rock melons

Spray, drip, flood, furrow or subsurface.
No preventative measures required although pathogen reduction will happen between harvesting and sale. 

<1 cfu/100 mL
Crops for produce grown in hydroponic conditions - herbs, lettuceHydroponic<1 cfu/100 mL

Crops with limited or no ground contact and eaten raw - tomatoes, capsicums

Drip irrigation. No harvest of wet or dropped produce.



Subsurface. No harvest of wet or dropped produce.
<100 cfu/100 mL

<1000 cfu/100 mL

Crops with ground contact with skins removed (other than rock melons) before consumption - watermelons

Spray, drip, flood, furrow or subsurface. If spray irrigation, minimum 2 days between final irrigation and harvest. Pathogen reduction between harvesting and sale.

<100 cfu/100 mL

Crops with no ground contact with skin removed before consumption - citrus, nuts, avocado, banana, mango

No harvest of wet or dropped produce.Spray: minimum 2 days between final irrigation and harvest. No harvest of wet or dropped produce. 

Drip, flood, furrow or subsurface. Pathogen reduction between harvesting and sale.
<100 cfu/100 mL

<1000 cfu/100 mL

Crops with no ground contact and heavily processed - grapes for wine production, cereals

Drip, flood, furrow or subsurface. No harvest of wet or dropped produce. Pathogen reduction between harvesting and sale.

<1000 cfu/100mL

Raised crops - apples, apricots, grapes, olive, peach

Drip, flood or furrow. No harvest of wet or dropped produce. Pathogen reduction between harvesting and
sale

Subsurface. No harvest of wet or dropped produce. Pathogen reduction between harvesting and sale.
<100 cfu/100 mL

<1000 cfu/100 mL

Crops cooked/processed before consumption - potatoes, beetroot

Drip, flood, furrow or subsurface. No harvest of wet or dropped produce. Pathogen reduction between harvesting and sale.

<1000 cfu/100mL

Contact

For more information contact Environmental Health.

Last updated: 13 October 2017