Wastewater as a resource, not a burden

March 2017

Blog

In most cities in developing countries, wastewater is currently not managed safely or effectively. Due to rapid urban population growth and a lack of adequate systems and resources, the problem outpaces the solution. Large amounts of untreated wastewater flow back directly into the environment, causing people to use and drink contaminated water which puts them at risk of contracting various diseases.

That is why World Water Day this year was about reducing and reusing #wastewater. Wastewater is grossly undervalued as a potentially affordable and sus­tainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials (UN-Water, 2017). But in order to benefit from the opportunities, wastewater needs to be managed in an efficient and sustainable way.

SNV supports efforts to address the wastewater challenge by working together with local governments to design and manage scalable city-wide sanitation services that target the entire sanitation chain. Our urban sanitation and hygiene programmes integrate insights in WASH governance, investment and finance, behavioural change communication, business models and management of sanitation services. Some examples:

Piloting city-wide sanitation services in Bangladesh
Cities are spending large sums of funds to bring in water from afar, but invest very little in sanitation. Whereas proper investment in sanitation would reduce the utility cost for treating wastewater. And while centralised sewerage systems are being planned for, the reality is that on-site and decentralised wastewater management coupled with faecal sludge management will continue to be the only option to address wastewater management in urban areas in the meantime. As a result of working together with SNV, the local authorities in Khulna have each made a commitment that no wastewater should be disposed without treatment. 

Establishing a safe FSM system in Nepal
Incredibly, even the most remote village of Jumla district in Nepal has a toilet. This is the success of the country’s proud, non-subsidized sanitation movement that has convinced people of the importance of building and using a toilet. However, managing faecal sludge safely from toilets is fast becoming the next big challenge for a country that is on the verge of achieving universal sanitation coverage. Through our urban sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Nepal, we aim to support small towns to develop FSM services that townspeople can rely on to safely empty their pits, transport the material, and treat or dispose it properly.

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Improving the management of water resources in Rwanda
In a bid to ensure coordinated management and development of water, land and related resources to maximise economic and social welfare without compromising sustainability, the Government of Rwanda has introduced the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach. Our activities in Rwanda include supporting the application of good IWRM practices by supporting district authorities, related governmental institutions, and other stakeholders in the development of catchment plans. We also work towards equal control and access of water resources. 

Addressing the wastewater challenge in Indonesia
The vast majority of urban sanitation coverage does not ensure safe separation of human waste from human contact. Human waste from a large part of the population ends up in water ways or marginal land, contaminating the living environment. To address this challenge, we have piloted our sanitation approach in the province of Lampung, in the city of Kalianda. In close coordination with Kalianda’s city authorities, we conducted a Rapid Technical Assessment (RTA) to identify the number, type and accessibility of the septic tanks/cesspools in place. This information allowed the local government to estimate capital expenditures, operation and maintenance costs and to estimate a fee for the scheduled desludging service which is currently being established.

For more information on our Urban Sanitation & Hygiene for Health and Development product and programmes, please contact Antoinette Kome


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