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Global Atlas of Excreta, Wastewater Sludge, and Biosolids Management

It is clear that, in addition to clean air, the well-being of our planet also requires that water, wastewater and the resulting biosolids (sludge) need to be managed more seriously, and in a focused, coordinated and cooperative manner.

The idea for the creation of this Global Atlas of Excreta, Wastewater Sludge, and Biosolids Management originated at the IWA Biosolids Conference, “Moving Forward Wastewater Biosolids Sustainability: Technical, Managerial, and Public Synergy” held in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada in June 2007. At this conference representatives of the International Water Association (IWA), Water Environmental Federation (WEF) and European Water Association (EWA) agreed that it would be useful to produce a summary of the current wastewater treatment, disposal and reuse practices around the globe.

The countries in this Atlas include high, moderate, and low-income countries and countries at various stages of development and with diverse political and social situations.These countries are in the south and in the north, in warm climates and cold, dry, and moist.They all have urban, suburban, peri-urban, and rural areas in which needs vary.

Countries in the Atlas

CountriesinAtlas.jpg

Links to Country Overviews

AustraliaAustriaBrazilBulagria Burkino FasoCameroonCanada
ColumbiaCote d'IvoireCzech RepublicChinaEngland and WalesEthiopiaEuropian UnionFinland
GermanyHungaryIranFinland ItalyJapanJordanMali
MexicoMozambiqueNamibia NetherlandsNew ZealandNigeriaNorway
PortugalRussiaSenegal SlovakiaSloveniaSouth AfricaTurkey
USA       

The people in these countries – and all countries – share the same need for sanitation.

The Atlas compares and contrasts excreta, wastewater sludge, and biosolids man­agement technologies and systems.This discussion builds on the following premises:

  • The creation of wastewater in human communities is inevitable. Around the world, in all cultures, water has been, and likely always will be, put to use for cleaning and conveying wastes. Even where there are waterless sanitation systems, such as composting toilets, water is used in other ways for cleaning and conveying wastes (consider, for examples, graywater and drainage or stormwater). Even without human involvement, rainwater serves as a natural conveyor of wastes.Wastewater is unavoidable, and, especially where populations are dense, unmanaged wastewater has impacts.
  • Around the world, history shows a common progression of improving wastewater treatment and wastewater sludge management. This progression, which is an integral part of development, has occurred historically in developed countries and is currently progressing in the developing world.
  • This progression appears to be inevitable. At first, it is driven by a need for humans to avoid contact with, and accidental ingestion of, pathogens in human excreta. Over time, there are improvements to systems that move excreta away from human contact. Such improvements become more essential in densely populated areas where the assimilative capacity of the natural environment (e.g. rivers, oceans) is exceeded. More complex systems are required, and most depend on water.They convey excreta and other wastes in sewers that lead to lagoons, septic systems, and wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Once such systems are established and are protecting humans from the immediate threat from waste-borne pathogens, focus inevitably shifts toward the effects of wastewater on other human communities downstream and on the natural environment and other organisms. Control of pathogens is no longer the only concern.The discharge into the environment of nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus), heavy metals, and toxic chemicals must also be controlled, requiring more complex systems and technologies – especially in densely populated areas.
  • Eventually, as wastewater treatment systems are able to reduce all forms of pollution in wastewater by 90% or more, the volume of wastewater solids – sewage sludge – becomes large and significant and requires careful management. In much of Europe, North America, Japan, and other developed urban areas around the world, the management of wastewater sludge has become a major focus and, in many places, is currently the most debated challenge in the field of sanitation.
  • While developed countries address the concerns of wastewater sludge management, +/-2.6 billion of the world’s people lack basic sanitationThey live in areas where the development of robust systems for excreta management that fully protect public health are nonexistent or in their early stages.
  • Inevitably, the progress that less-developed communities must make during the coming years to improve human health and safety – as set forth in the Millennium Development Goals – will lead to the creation of more fecal sludge and wastewater sludge that must be managed.
  • The continuing refinement of best management practices for excreta, wastewater, wastewater sludge, and biosolids must eventually provide sustainable solutions that work in a diversity of locations and situations around the globe, are energy and cost-efficient (putting these resources to their best uses), minimize transfers of potentially hazardous constituents to the environment, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure healthy natural ecosystems.

Thus, this Atlas looks at the full spectrum of development of the management of human excreta, wastewater, wastewater sludge, and biosolids.The systems discussed in the following reports have the same goals: improving public health and protecting the environment for the betterment of human communities. How they each go about it varies considerably, and different choices are made in different communities. However, there are also many similarities, and there are a limited number of options for how to manage excreta, septage, and wastewater sludges.

In sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and Central and South America, wastewater treat­ment systems, if they exist, are minimal or function poorly, and basic sanitation is the focus.

In eastern Europe,Turkey, the Russian Federation, Mexico, South America, and other areas, wastewater treatment has advanced, but wastewater sludge and biosolids management are only now becoming increasingly important concerns, and more complex regulatory structures are being developed.

In Europe, North America,Australia, and New Zealand there is more focus on how to im­prove the management of wastewater sludge and biosolids. In these places, wastewater is gener­ally treated at the secondary, and, in many cases, tertiary level, and biosolids technologies and regulatory systems are complex. Diverse water quality professionals, engineers, scientists, agri­cultural experts, and government regulators are refining ways to improve efficiencies, maximize utilization of beneficial aspects, and reduce potential impacts of managing biosolids.There are myriad details being addressed: pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in treated water and biosolids, other trace chemicals and heavy metals, reactivation of pathogens in some particular biosolids treatment scenarios, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gases (from the per­spectives of both production and mitigation).

Notably, throughout the development of excreta, wastewater, wastewater sludge and biosol­ids management – from the least developed to the most developed countries – there are in­evitable public concerns about how best to manage this “waste” that is also a resource. Putting biosolids to their best uses in each local situation is the goal of most of the programs discussed in the following reports. That is the goal of many sanitation and water quality experts. But the general public has other goals: avoiding the waste and the odors it can produce.There is a natural aversion to fecal matter and anything associated with it. Conflicts arise when experts propose recycling this “waste,” usually in a treated and tested form commonly called “biosolids,” back to soils in communities.

Managing excreta and wastewater sludge to produce recyclable biosolids involves many technical challenges. But equally significant are these social, cultural, and political challenges. Funding is required to build infrastructure – and, around the world, the public is the source of funding, either through taxes or sewer usage fees. In order for proper sanitation to be built and operated, complex community sanitation agencies with support from state, provincial, and national governments are needed.To create this infrastructure and organizational support, the public must be educated.

So, even as scientific research and technology advance the management of excreta, wastewa­ter sludge, and biosolids, so too must public understanding and political support be advanced. This Atlas is intended to educate not only wastewater engineers, sanitation agencies, and biosolids managers, but also political leaders, the media, and the general public.

Resources

The issues in this article are covered in Global Atlas of Excreta, Wastewater Sludge, and Biosolids Management.

Edited by Ronald J. LeBlanc, Peter Matthews and Roland P. Richard, the Atlas provides information of current wastewater treatment, disposal and reuse practices around the world.

Click here to download complete PDF

Further Reading

IWA publishing are producing the title, Wastewater Sludge - A Global Overview of the Current Status and Future Prospects (2nd Edition) in 2011. This will present an updated and expanded perspective on developments in relation to wastewater sludge around the world.

The 2011 edition of this report provides a strategic overview of the wastewater sludge market around the world, based on regional and country contributions. These look at the current situation in terms of sludge generation, legislation, technology applied and management management approaches. These will then look at anticipated developments over the short / medium term, including expected developments in terms of legislation and the technology and management solutions to be implemented. These will be complemented by longer term perspectives also.

The report has been prepared for the Market Briefing Series of the International Water Association's magazine Water21, with input from IWA's network of wastewater sludge experts around the world.

Order your copy of Wastewater Sludge - A Global Overview of the Current Status and Future Prospects (2nd Edition)

Also of interest ...

Reduction, Modification and Valorisation of Sludge REMOVALS
 Editor(s): Azael Fabregat, Christophe Bengoa, Josep Font and Frank Stueber
 Mar 2011 • ISBN: 9781843393450

Faecal Sludge Management - Linda Strande, Mariska Ronteltap and Damir Brdjanovic
 Publication Date: Nov 2013 - ISBN - 9781780404721

Benchmarking of Control Strategies for Wastewater Treatment Plants - Krist V Gernaey, Ulf Jeppsson, Peter A Vanrolleghem, John B Copp and Jean-Philippe Steyer
 Publication Date: Sep 2013 - ISBN - 9781843391463


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