Last week, my environmental law class visited Conserv II, which is the City of Orlando’s Wastewater Treatment Facility. This is my second visit to the site, and the first visit for the students even though some of them have visited other wastewater treatment facilities. Neither the odor or the gross factor deterred the students for this visit.
When one of the students asked our guide about the smell. He responded, “It’s the smell of cash.” Sanitation and wastewater treatment are big business.
At Conserv II, we saw part of the processes where pollutants in municipal wastewater (households and small industries) were removed, so that the water can reenter the water cycle with minimum environmental impact or reused directly.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include advocating for increased wastewater management:
Industrial and agricultural pollution, city storm waters and human sewage create acute health and pollution issues in an increasingly urban world. Rough estimates suggest that 80-90 percent of wastewater in developing countries is discharged directly into rivers, lakes and seas, causing water-borne diseases, hindering tourism and economic development while severely damaging the environment. Wastewater management and pollution prevention requires a cost effective approach along with sustainable financing models. Part of the economic equation must include pollution prevention which can enhance the productivity of industry and agriculture. Treated water can be re-used and is a potential source of ‘new’ water thereby reducing the demand of cities, farms, and industries for more drawdown on the environment. After treatment, urban wastewater treated to an appropriate standard can be reused for industry and peri-urban agriculture. Energy can be captured from wastewater. All of these efforts create green jobs.UNSGAB commits to:
- Continue wastewater and pollution prevention advocacy in all possible activities.
- Advocate for comprehensive national and local policies which encompass all kinds of wastewater and can promote wastewater management and pollution prevention.
- Encourage the development of national wastewater master plans, including cost estimates and timeframes, and ensure the capital investment plans are matched by external and internal funding sources to achieve master plan objectives.
- Advocate for comprehensive national and local policies, which encompass emission reduction, pollution prevention, and promote wastewater management, including the development of supporting regulatory and financial mechanisms.
- Participate actively in international and national activities promoting effective water reuse and wastewater treatment. In these fora, we will
- Welcome and participate in initiatives to promote global collaboration, insisting on the inclusion of technology and expertise providers on water re-use, wastewater treatment and pollution prevention.
- Connect major actors involved in financing wastewater treatment, in particular regional development banks, experts in financing, the International Water Association, industry associations, relevant labor organizations.
- Emphasize the need to curb agricultural pollution.
- Participate in and support efforts to create proper monitoring, indicator creation, and reporting arrangements.
- Advocate for increased political prioritization of wastewater management and pollution prevention in cooperation with partners such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW).
- Encourage activities to gather evidence regarding wastewater treatment benefits for job creation, IWRM, and basic sanitation actors.
The success of all these efforts depends on national action and partner activities:
- UN-Water increases its priority for wastewater management and pollution prevention and increases corresponding activities including building global monitoring system.
- Friends of Water promote wastewater agenda so that the wastewater challenge will be addressed together with water challenges in an integrated manner.
- UN-HABITAT expands the scope of GWOPA to encourage partnership among wastewater management operators, with occasional reports to UNSGAB on progress and achievements of the initiative.