The United Nations (UN) is now urging the world to stop wasting wastewater and start exploiting its not inconsiderable value.
This is a key message from the United Nations as the world marks Word Water Day commemorated on 22nd March each year.
The 2017 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report, titled “Wastewater: The Untapped Resource,” 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.
Wastewater, according to the can play a critical role 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.
Studies indicate that more than 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is currently discharged into the environment untreated, causing diseases that kill close to a million people every year. The majority of the victim are said to be children under the age of five.
Blooms of algae, which grow rapidly in sewage-rich sea water, have also created vast ‘dead zones’ where most marine life cannot survive. And fewer fish in the sea means less food for humans at a time when the global population is climbing rapidly.
Professor Stefan Uhlenbrook, director of the UN World Water Assessment Programme said in a statement that there was already a solution to many of the problems caused by human sewage.
Professor Uhlenbrook said fresh-water resources are finite globally but more and more is being polluted making the unpolluted water less and less.
He said often wastewater is seen as a burden, something to be disposed of, a nuisance to be ignored and too little has it been seen as a resource.
Sewage in some countries is turned into fertiliser for crops after it has been treated to remove dangerous bugs. The water itself, particularly in arid countries and large cities, can be treated for reuse domestically and by businesses.