The 2017 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report demonstrates how improved wastewater management generates social, environmental and economic benefits essential for sustainable development. In particular, the Report seeks to inform decision-makers, government, civil society and private sector, about the importance of managing wastewater as an undervalued and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable by-products, rather than something to be disposed of or a nuisance to be ignored.
The report’s title reflects the critical role that wastewater is poised to play in the context of a circular economy, whereby economic development is balanced with the protection of natural resources and environmental sustainability, and where a cleaner and more sustainable economy has a positive effect on the water quality.Access to improved sanitation services can contribute significantly to the reduction of health risks. Further health gains may be realized through improved wastewater treatment.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has a comprehensive goal for water, going beyond the issues of water supply and sanitation. The extremely low level of wastewater treatment reveals an urgent need for technological upgrades and safe water reuse options to support the achievement of Target 6.3, which is critical for achieving the entire Agenda.
Having too much (floods) or too little (drought) water, which is often accompanied by too dirty water (higher pollution concentrations in both extremes), make the necessity for wastewater use even greater. Some of the measures to increase the resilience to drought events include the acceptance of wastewater as a reliable source of water for agriculture and many other uses.