Wastewater Services

By operating sanitation services for public authorities, private operators are contributing to the implementation/realisation of the human right to sanitation; protecting water resources and supporting social and economic activities. Efforts must be continued as 2.4 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities [reference].


Brazil - Odebrecht

Major improvements have been made over the past two decades to give people access to improved sanitation facilities:

  • In 2010, the Right to Sanitation has been recognized as a human right by the United Nations (In the General Assembly then in the Human Rights Council). 
  • In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that nearly one third of the current global population had gained access to an improved sanitation facility since 1990, representing 2,1 billion people. 


AquaFed has contributed to the work of the UN Special Rapporteur and is helping water professionals, for which sanitation is a core business, to contribute to the implementation of this right. As agents of responsible public authorities, private water operators participate in the collection, transportation, de-pollution and re-use of all forms of wastewater.


Wastewater management still remains a major challenge for government and operators, as at least a third of the global population representing 2.4 billion people don’t have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines . Particularly, 1.5 billion people still proceed with open defecation. As for unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. 


AquaFed is cooperating with the international community within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to intensify efforts made at a global level to:

  • Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation.
  • Improve water quality by reducing pollution, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.


In a water constrained world, the management of used water to protect and augment natural water resources should be a priority.





  • 1.1 billion people have no access to sanitation facility.
  • 2.4 billion people still did not have safe sanitation facilities.
  • 280,000 people are dying annually due to inadequate sanitation.


1/ Definition of Sanitation

Sanitation includes safe collection, storage, treatment, disposal and reuse or recycling of:

  • human excreta (faeces and urine),
  • household wastewater (often referred to as sullage or grey water),
  • stormwater,
  • solid waste,
  • all other types of water after it has been used (other urban, industrial, agricultural wastewater.)
  • hazardous wastes


However, this term is used in different ways when the sanitation challenge is discussed at the international level. The two official concepts of "Improved Sanitation" and "Basic Sanitation" that have been used for the sanitation target of the UN Millennium Development Goals are not clearly identified by many.


AquaFed’s suggestion below seeks to provide common ground in the different positions taken

by politicians, public health, environment, and water practitioners.

  • Improved sanitation: the use of not shared and not public “improved” sanitation facilities (flush or pour-flush to piped sewer system or septic tank or pit latrine, ventilated improved pit latrine, pit latrine with slab, composting toilet) which are more likely to prevent human contact with human excreta than “unimproved” facilities.
  • Basic sanitation: the lowest-cost option for securing sustainable access to safe, hygienic, and convenient facilities and services for excreta and sullage disposal that provide privacy and dignity, while at the same time ensuring a clean and healthful living environment both at home and in the neighbourhood of users.

2/ Integrated Sanitation Management

Management of used water is an essential sanitation activity that contributes locally to sustainable development and to economic development. 

AquaFed advocates for better Integrated Sanitation Management (ISM), promoting an integrated vision of the different components of wastewater management:

  • Collecting used water avoids local contamination and removes pollution transported by wastewater
  • Wastewater is also a source of nutrients that can become fertilizers and a freshwater resource that can be reused for agricultural, industrial, or urban water supply.
  • On-site and off-site facilities may complement each other in protecting the same water resources.


This integrated approach has been promoted by the international community:

  • On 20 December 2010, the UN General Assembly made a resolution that “encouraged all States, as well as the United Nations system and international organizations and other stakeholders, to approach the sanitation issue in a much broader context and encompass all its aspects, including hygiene promotion, provision of basic sanitation services, sewerage, and wastewater treatment and reuse in the context of integrated management of water resources.”
  • Following the 6th World Water Forum in 2012, governments declared: “An integrated approach towards sanitation and wastewater management, including collection, treatment, monitoring and re-use, is essential to optimize the benefits and value of water.”
  • Recent publications by WHO and OECD have confirmed the high economic rate of return to a national community of investing in wastewater management.



Sanitation 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.
  • Operating 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 minimising 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.

March 14th 2015


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    Attached Ressources

    • 31/01/13 | Post-2015 Global Goals Towards a wastewater sub-goal of the Goal on Water Options for indicators, targets and sub-goal
    • 31/05/09 | Advancing the right to sanitation

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