17/03/17Global Issues 

22 March 2017 is World Water Day: Wastewater

World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. The World Water Day is the international day about taking action on water issues. The First World Water Day was celebrated on 22nd of March 1993. It has been held annually since then. Each year, the United Nations set a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge.


The 2017 theme is Wastewater.





Wastewater Management is the Job of Water Operators


Water has to be carefully managed throughout every phase of the water cycle. Efforts are required to both prevent pollution and to remove it from water that has been used so it is safe for the environment or to be reused.


Wastewater management is a core business of private water operators:

  • Managing on-site facilities, for example, the building and operation of public toilets and the de-sludging of private septic tanks.
  • Building, operating and maintaining sewerage and stormwater networks including pumping stations retention basins and combined sewer overflows.
  • Building, operating and maintaining wastewater reclamation plants, sewage sludge treatment plants, and water recycling facilities.
  • Operating industrial systems where industrial wastewater is de-polluted before discharge allowing it to be recycled and thus minimizing the net industrial consumption of  freshwater.
  • Re-using water, as, for example in building and operating plants that de-pollute urban and industrial wastewater to make it re-usable in irrigation or in industry or to enable the return of cleaned water to rivers or to recharge aquifers.



Wastewater Management is essential for the Water Cycle


Water pollution kills and maims individuals: people, animals, fish, birds, plants - all living beings. It harms the environment, societies and economies. Coping with water pollution requires much more political will, knowledge and technical facilities.


The main causes of water pollution are man-made and are largely avoidable. These are agriculture, urbanization, and industry.


Today there is very little information or data on the damage these pollutions cause, but we know that as much as 80-90% of wastewater is estimated to be discharged to natural environment without any treatment.


Because water is the lifeblood of all Sustainable Development Goals, water management is of highest importance for reaching all 17 Goals by 2030. To reach Goal 6, stronger political recognition of the importance of water is essential. Managing water and wastewater requires long term stable political commitment.


By operating sanitation services for public authorities, private operators are contributing to the implementation and realisation of the human right to sanitation. By doing so they protect water resources and support social and economic activities. Efforts must be continued as 2.4 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities.


The United Nations estimate that annual investments for sustainable infrastructure in water have to be doubled to overcome the 1 to 1.5 trillion-dollar annual infrastructure shortage so as to meet the needs of the unserved people in developing countries. And in developed countries due to aging infrastructure, investment is needed to maintain and expand services to meet the demands. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card that 1 trillion-dollar are needed in the U.S. to bring water and wastewater infrastructure up to  standard over the next 25 years.


  • Water and wastewater operators care about providing services from the source to the tap and from the tap to the source.
  • As much as 80-90% of wastewater discharged to natural environment untreated. This must be changed, political will and action is needed.
  • Removing pollution from water can be expensive, but is often less expensive than rectifying the damage polluted water causes.


Wastewater Management and Urbanisation


Growing urban population is a demanding challenge for water and wastewater management. By 2030 the global demand for water is expected to grow by 50% of which most will be in cities.


This requires new approaches to wastewater collection and management. Growing cities require more water which often has to be captured from resources further away or that are more difficult to treat.


Growing cities also create more wastewater and surface run-off that need treatment to make it safe. Also, the economic activities in urban areas create special requirements for the urban wastewater management as often highly toxic or polluted wastewater from, for example, local small businesses such as motor garage, or chemical and medical waste from hospitals are discharged into the wastewater system.


  • Currently 1 in 4 city residents worldwide, 794 million, live without access to improved sanitation facilities.
  • Urban wastewater is composed of e.g. household effluents, human waste, industrial and hospital wastewater, surface run-offs. Specialised wastewater treatment is required before releasing it back into nature.



Wastewater Management in Industry


Industrial parks have formed part of the economy in both developing and developed countries for a long time. They provide competitive advantage for the businesses and also sustainable benefits beyond the demarcations. They ensure effective water and wastewater management together with liquid and solid materials recovery to limit pollution.


The specialisation of industrial parks permits “tailored” water supply, effluent collection and treatment and leads to maximisation of use and reuse of available water and other materials. This enables the whole water cycle to be linked with successive steps in the value chain of the processes and products of the industries in the park. In some cases, the provision of specialized effluent treatment to preserve a country’s specialized industry has been the reason for creating a park.


The Shanghai Chemical Industrial Park groups chemical companies working in chlorine chemistry. It has an integrated water and wastewater and solid waste services operator.


In Turkey, the Tuzla organised Leather Industrial Zone project in Istanbul is an example. Here the tanning leather industry moved from the centre of the Turkish capital to a newly created industrial zone in late 1980s and started operating in 1992. The pooling of the resources has the advantage of the central collection and common treatment of the toxic tannery wastewater. It is one of the largest tannery wastewater treatment installations worldwide.


The wastewater treatment plant Aquapolo Ambiental serves a consortium of Brazilian petrochemical companies. Municipal effluent from part of the São Paulo Metropolis is treated at the ABC Sewage Treatment Plant. It is then conveyed to Aquapolo Ambiental’s Industrial Water Production Plant, which is built on the same site, to be converted into reclaimed water. The effluent undergoes further biological treatment and some of the effluent is treated using reverse osmosis to reach the final water quality for reuse. The resulting reclaimed water, or industrial water, is transferred to the Capuava Petrochemical Complex in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area. As a result, the Aquapolo Project currently supplies 650 litres per second of reclaimed industrial water to the Capuava Petrochemical Complex. The drinking water that is no longer used for industrial purposes can now be consumed by 500,000 residents of the region. Aquapolo has the capacity to produce up to 1,000 l/s, roughly equivalent to the consumption of 600,000 people.


  • Industrial parks help to tailor water supply and effluent collection and treatment.
  • Positive effects on the economy result from the depollution of water.


Wastewater Management and Agriculture


Water is used and reused over and over as it moves through the environment. Each use has an impact on the others and must be considered in the system of water operations. Water pollution not only affects public health, the environment and local economic activities, but also the national economic competitiveness of a country.


For example, the Latin American cholera epidemic of 1991 is one of the most dramatic illustrations of the effects of the lack of safe drinking water and wastewater services. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reports the resulting losses related to the export of fish products from Peru alone in more than US$ 700 million.


The many benefits of wastewater treatment can be observed in terms of public health, quality of life and environmental protection. In the case of Chile, the lack of wastewater treatment had a great impact on the national economy which resulted in decrease of agricultural export possibilities. Since the cholera epidemic, this has been the driving force for implementation of wastewater services.


The positive effects on the economy resulting from depollution of water have been the important driver. Investments are funneled into changing in the country’s irrigation practices, which now use clean water for agribusiness. The export reduction had a negative economic impact which was directly linked to complaints on the wastewater irrigation.


Clean water irrigation promoted the quality of Chilean agricultural products for external market and created trust in quality and pollution-free agricultural goods. This had not only a positive effect on the agricultural sector but also on the tourism industry, national employment rates, and on public health and ensured the quality of water bodies that are used for drinking water supply.


  • Safely managed wastewater turns into clean water for irrigation. This helps farmers, to increase food production, increases public health, protects the environment, and supports national economy.  


Wastewater Management and Public Health


Public health is directly linked to good water and wastewater management. A healthy population is the basis for good economic activities, for education and for the current and future employment in a region and country.


Back in the 19th century, when cities discovered that safe water would reduce or even eliminate waterborne diseases such as cholera, the systematic installation of water infrastructure and water treatment began.


Water supply and sanitation services have long been recognised as primary public health protection systems. However, despite this knowledge and awareness, one-third of the world’s population still lack access to clean water and safe toilet facilities today.


Uses of water that involve human consumption or contact are particularly sensitive to water quality conditions and must meet standards developed to protect human health. When these standards are not met, the implications are important.


Water-borne diseases are one of the primary causes of child mortality. Over 315,000 children under the age of five die each year due to diarrhea contracted from contaminated water. The World Health Organisation states that the burden of diarrheal disease from inadequate drinking water is high.


Wastewater, poor sanitation, and unsafe water is a threat to human life. Wastewater management is key to prevent these death threats and to eliminate water borne serious diseases.


  • Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths per year.
  • It is estimated that 315,000 children under the age of 5 die each year due to diarrhoea contracted from contaminated water.
  • 1/3 of the world’s population lack access to safe water and safe toilet facilities today. No access is a threat to their health and life.


Further Information


Information on World Water Day

Facts on AquaFed on Sanitation and Wastewater - Timeline

AquaFed Members´ Activities on World Water Day


Suez España -  Barcelona, Spain

ESSBIO - Concepción, Chile (see media kit)



World Water Development Report 2017

In the Media


22.03.2017 DE - Interview Thomas van Waeyenberge, AquaFed, mit Radio Vatikan "Konferenz im Vatikan: Wasser ist das Gut aller" (Artikel /Radio) 


22.03.2017 FR  - Interview Thomas van Waeyenberge, AquaFed, avec Radio Vatican "Journée mondiale de l'eau: objectif, réutiliser les eaux usées objectif, réutiliser les eaux usées " (article / radio)


22.03.2017 ES - Entrevista Thomas van Waeyenberge, AquaFed, Radio Vaticano "Sin el respeto del derecho al agua, no hay desarrollo sostenible. Conferencia Watershed en el Vaticano" (articulo / radio)



Whatever you do to celebrate the World Water Day – please let the world know about it:

  • The official World Water Day promotional material is available for download and information here . This material is available in various languages. Please use these materials for your own purposes.


March 14th 2015


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    Attached Ressources

    • In the media | 22/03/17 | | Entrevista (es) Thomas van Waeyenberge, AquaFed, Radio Vaticano: Sin el respeto del derecho al agua, no hay desarrollo sostenible. Conferencia Watershed en el Vaticano
    • In the media | 22/03/17 | | Entrevista con Radio Vaticano: Sin el respeto del derecho al agua, no hay desarrollo sostenible. Conferencia "Watershed" en el Vaticano
    • In the media | 22/03/17 | | Interview (fr) Thomas van Waeyenberge, AquaFed, avec Radio Vatican "Journée mondiale de l'eau: objectif, réutiliser les eaux usées objectif, réutiliser les eaux usées "
    • In the media | 22/03/17 | | FR - Interview Thomas van Waeyenberge, AquaFed, avec Radio Vatican "Journée mondiale de l'eau: objectif, réutiliser les eaux usées objectif, réutiliser les eaux usées "
    • In the media | 22/03/17 | | Interview (de) Thomas van Waeyenberge, AquaFed, mit Radio Vatikan "Konferenz im Vatikan: Wasser ist das Gut aller"
    • In the media | 22/03/17 | | 2017_03_22_Interview TVW Radio Vatikan
    • Media kit | 22/03/17 | ESSBIO Concepcion, Chile - World Water Day activities
    • Media kit | 22/03/17 | ESSBIO - Concepción, Chile - World Water Day 2017
    • Media kit | 21/03/17 | 22 March 2015 World Water Day "Wastewater" AquaFed timeline achievements
    • Media kit | 20/03/17 | 22 March 2017 World Water Day - "Wastewater"
    • Media kit | 20/03/17 | World Water Day 2017