Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Wastewater – Turning Problem into Solution

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environment Conservation


Source: UNEP

 Context: Recently, a report prepared by Global Wastewater Initiative (GWWI), a global platform bringing together UN agencies, NGOs, the private sector etc. to tackle wastewater pollution, “Wastewater – Turning Problem to Solution” was released.

  • This report follows up on the Sick Water report from 2011 and aims to address the urgent need for sustainable water and wastewater management.


What is Wastewater?

Wastewater refers to water that has been used and contaminated through various human activities, such as domestic, industrial, or agricultural processes.


Key Messages of the Report:

  • Wastewater reuse could supply more than ten times the current global desalination
  • To unlock this potential, public perceptions and concerns about wastewater resource recovery and reuse must change.
  • Elevating wastewater reuse in international policy is crucial to addressing climate, nature, and pollution crises.
  • The huge potential of wastewater: It could serve as an alternative energy source for up to half a billion people, reduce global fertilizer use by over 10%, and irrigate around 40 million hectares of land.
  • Raw source for Industries: Wastewater can be a source of raw materials for various industries, including paper, polymers, pesticides, rubber, paint, biodiesel, food additives, and more, contributing to economic and environmental sustainability.


The Issues:

  • Improper wastewater management is a global challenge, exacerbated by population growth, urbanization, and climate change.
  • By 2030, domestic and municipal wastewater production is estimated to rise by 24-38%
  • Only 11% of domestic and industrial wastewater is currently being reused, indicating untapped potential.
  • Untreated wastewater remains a significant issue, with approximately 50% of it entering the environment.
  • Vulnerable groups, especially women and children, are disproportionately affected by poor wastewater management.
  • Sustainable wastewater management offers co-benefits like improved environmental and human health, reduced dependence on synthetic fertilizers, and energy diversification.
  • Barriers to wastewater resource recovery include inadequate political support, governance issues, data deficits, financing challenges, and cultural perceptions.


The Solution:

  • Sustainable wastewater management involves three key action areas:
    • Reducing wastewater production
    • Preventing contamination
    • Sustainably managing wastewater for resource recovery and reuse.
  • Addressing these areas requires building blocks like effective governance, mobilizing investment, enhancing capacity, fostering innovation, data collection, and increasing communication and awareness.
  • Realizing the economic value of wastewater is essential, and a shared vision and collective action are needed from individuals, businesses, governments, and society to drive change at scale.
  • Detailed guidance on sewage treatment and reuse technologies.
  • Effective financing mechanisms that permit sufficient cost recovery.


To know different ways of treating wastewater: Click Here



Wastewater needs to be viewed as a valuable resource with the potential to address environmental and societal crises. The transformation of wastewater from a pollution problem to a valuable resource is essential for addressing water scarcity, pollution, and climate change, and ensuring a sustainable future.


Insta Links: 

Wastewater surveillance


Mains Links:

Discuss the potential and benefits of efficient wastewater management in India. (15M)