Challenges for implementing and maintaining wastewater treatment in LMICOctober 26, 2021Wastewater expert and IWA Global Water Award 2021 winner...Challenges for implementing and maintaining wastewater treatment in LMIC
October 26, 2021
Wastewater expert and IWA Global Water Award 2021 winner Marcos von Sperling offers advice on providing new treatment in low- and middle-income countries, and the task of maintaining it.
In most low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), it is a real challenge to implement wastewater treatment. In urbanised areas with conventional piped sewerage systems, current statistics show that, in most countries, a high proportion of the population is still not connected to sewers. Adding to that scenario, the sewage flow that is collected by the network is frequently discharged untreated into water bodies. Improving these statistics is part of the Sustainable Development Goals, and involves a huge effort that needs to be addressed by low- and middle-income countries.
Improving the metrics in terms of percentage of population connected to sewers and percentage of wastewater treated is only part of the challenge, however. Yes, implementation of infrastructure must be celebrated, and the increase in coverage is undoubtedly essential, but it does not fully reveal the quality of the service being provided. In terms of wastewater treatment, implementing new treatment plants is a goal that does not bring an end in itself. On the contrary, new treatment plants unveil a list of new challenges that must be then faced by service providers, regulators and environmental agencies, as a whole.