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Waste water management

March 23, 2017 | Expert Insights

How waste is waste water?

Wastewater management across the globe receives too little social or political attention. In this regard, the 2017 United Nations’ Water Development Programme’s World Water Development Report (WWDR) – Wastewater: The Untapped Resource makes clear that we can no longer afford this disconnect.

Untreated Water a Threat

  • The report notes that more than 80% of the world’s wastewater — over 95% in some least developed countries — is released into the environment untreated.
  • In Thailand, 77% of wastewater was untreated in 2012; it was 81% in Vietnam the same year and 82% in Pakistan in 2011.

How Can We Change?

Socioeconomic factors typically determine access to efficient wastewater management services that can more effectively deal with such pollution loads.

The WWDR estimates that for every $1 spent on sanitation, society benefits by an estimated $5.5, facilitating circular economy. A circular economy is one in which economic development and environmental sustainability are interdependent, with a strong emphasis on minimising pollution, while maximising reuse and recycling.

EXAMPLE: Singapore is using reclaimed water, branded “NEWater”, to serve up to 30% of its needs. While largely used for industrial purposes, the water is potable and demonstrates what can be accomplished through innovative policy approaches.


Waste water need to be in literal terms ‘waste water’. How can we ensure it is not waste? More effective and efficient management of wastewater requires greater support of municipalities and local governments, which often lack the human and financial resources they need to enforce environmental rules and improve infrastructure and services. Water is life, and without a sustained commitment to improving and benefiting from effective wastewater management, that precious resource, and the billions of lives it nourishes, are in peril.