In its new report, Wastewater: Turning downside to answer, UNEP warned that solely 11 per cent of handled wastewater is reused whereas round half of the world’s untreated wastewater nonetheless enters rivers, lakes and seas.
Moreover, CO2 emissions from wastewater are substantial, hovering barely beneath these from the worldwide aviation trade.
With the proper insurance policies in place, wastewater might present various power to half a billion folks, provide over 10 occasions the water obtained via desalination processes and scale back the demand for artificial fertilizers.
‘Stuffed with potential’
“Globally, wastewater is filled with potential, but it’s presently allowed as an alternative to infect the ecosystems we depend on,” mentioned Leticia Carvalho, Head of Marine and Freshwater Department at UNEP.
“We should not let the chance merely disappear down the drain: it’s time to appreciate the promise of wastewater instead supply of unpolluted water, power, and essential vitamins.”
The launch of the report, a joint publication by UNEP, the World Wastewater Initiative (GWWI) platform and GRID-Arendal, a Norwegian non-profit group, is a centrepiece of this yr’s World Water Week presently underway.
It highlights wastewater’s potential to morph from a local weather concern to an answer.
By producing biogas, warmth, and electrical energy, wastewater might produce 5 occasions extra power than is required for its therapy.
Furthermore, correct wastewater administration might assist international locations adapt to local weather change and scale back water insecurity. Reusing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium from wastewater might offset 13.4 % of the worldwide agricultural nutrient demand.
Correct administration of wastewater additionally has the potential to irrigate round 40 million hectares – an space bigger than Germany.
The report additionally gives profitable wastewater administration examples from numerous international locations, each excessive and low-income, together with China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Israel, Namibia, Senegal, Sweden, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, and Tunisia, in addition to from the Caribbean area.
The initiatives show the potential for scalable options throughout a number of local weather zones and economies.
It additionally urges governments and companies to take a look at wastewater as a “round financial system” alternative, outlining the potential jobs and income the precious useful resource can generate.
“We have to maintain the strain as much as enhance some crucial underlying circumstances if these actions are to succeed,” mentioned Peter Harris, Director of GRID-Arendal.
“For that to occur, we’d like simpler governance, funding, supporting innovation, strengthening knowledge, bettering capability to implement and – critically shifting our behaviour – all of us as people and establishments.”