Globally, more than 60 per cent of people live without safely managed sanitation services or even lack access to basic sanitation facilities, while most of the wastewater produced is discharged without proper treatment. Integrated approaches are needed to address these issues and curb the resulting adverse impacts on public health and the environment, and associated socioeconomic losses.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an important framework towards more sustainable sanitation development, in terms of both safe sanitation access and wastewater management. There are many innovative solutions that treat and enable productive safe use of water, and facilitate recovery of nutrients and organic matter from waste resources. Some examples of trends are decentralised solutions, separation of waste flows, low-flush or no-flush toilets, and converting faecal sludge to energy.
These alternative technologies show huge potential to address many development challenges, contributing to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but upscaling has proved to be a major challenge. A paradigm shift to ‘treatment for reuse’ instead of ‘treatment for disposal’ is already taking place in the wastewater sector. The paper identifies areas for further attention: (1) a better understanding of driving forces and enabling environments; (2) new organisational models based on more service-oriented sanitation provision; and (3) highlighting potential multiple societal benefits to attract investments from new sectors.