RELEVANT SUSTAINABLE GOALS
Why is wastewater a problem?
- Estimates suggest that the annual production of wastewater was approximately 360-380 billion m3 per year in 2015, and this figure is only increasing. (UNEP)
- Globally, in 2022, only 58 per cent of all wastewater flows generated by households were safely treated before being released into the environment. (UN-Water)
- At least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces. (WHO)
How does wastewater affect our lives?
- Only 11 per cent of the estimated total of domestic and industrial wastewater produced is currently being reused. The untapped potential for wastewater reuse is around 320 billion m3 per year, with the potential to supply more than 10 times the current global desalination capacity. (UNEP)
What are countries doing about wastewater?
- Check out the United Nations Environment Programme’s new report, Wastewater – Turning problem to solution, to see other examples of sustainably managed wastewater systems using low-cost or alternative solutions that allow for a more agile and efficient treatment, including nature-based solutions.
- Find out about wastewater and water quality in your country or region through the UN-Water SDG 6 Data Portal.
How can we safely reuse wastewater?
How can I help improve the quality of my wastewater?
- Turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth or doing dishes or scrubbing vegetables. Otherwise, you’re just making wastewater without even using it.
- Put rubbish, oils, chemicals, and food in the bin, not down the drain. The dirtier your wastewater, the more energy and money it costs to treat it.
- Collect used water from your kitchen sink or bathtub and use it on plants and gardens, and to wash your bike or car.
- Improve wastewater management where you work or contact local businesses to ask about their wastewater policies and practices.
Did you know…how wastewater relates to climate change?
Singapore safely reuses water (NEWater), collected from the public sewerage system, for drinking water and other uses. Alongside desalination and other measures, NEWater has helped Singapore to reduce water stress and improve water-use efficiency to overcome extreme water scarcity.
In the face of climate change, wastewater is a critical source of alternative water, particularly for agriculture. Recovering costs of wastewater treatment has been a major hurdle for years in developing countries. The need for finance and access to climate finance to improve wastewater treatment will be crucial in the years ahead.
Lead image courtesy of UN-Water/World Water Day 2027.