Wastewater treatment: A critical component of a circular economy
The 8th World Water Forum was held in Brazil a few days ago. What's ironic is that the more than nine thousand of us attending this Forum were discussing water-related issues in a city of three million grappling with a severe water shortage. After checking in at my hotel, the first thing I found in my room was a notice from the Government informing guests of this crisis and recommending ways to reduce water use. We recently learned of the predicament in Cape Town, South Africa, which was on the verge of running out of this essential liquid—a plight facing many cities around the world.
The way in which we have been managing this resource and its services is clearly not a long-term solution. Traditional investment planning, design, and operating models are linear in nature: water is extracted from the source, treated, and used, and the wastewater is then treated and discharged in a receiving water body. Realizing this goal will entail rethinking the current wastewater treatment model.
In a bid to foster this paradigm shift in Latin America, we are working with the CAF and several countries to implement the “Wastewater: From Waste to Resource” initiative. As part of this effort, a session was organized during the World Water Forum to facilitate discussions with governments and the private sector on the challenges and opportunities associated with promoting this fundamental change. “Wastewater treatment plants” should be abandoned in favor of “water resource recovery facilities.” Recovery of wastewater resources is already underway in several countries, albeit in an ad hoc manner.