This policy brief written by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health explores the Catch-22 situation that low-income countries and their populations face. While the use of untreated wastewater in developing countries provides critical economic and social benefits to poor communities, it often comes at the expense of unacceptable health and environmental risks. Key findings report that there are significantly higher prevalence rates of water borne diseases in areas irrigated with raw wastewater than freshwater irrigated areas. This in turn impacts the Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) – a key global indicator for population health and wellbeing – stemming from diarrhea, that are significantly lower in countries with improved water quality.
This policy brief therefor is a call to action for breaking this Catch-22 cycle, through increased coverage of wastewater treatment to make water recycling and safe reuse profitable; the prioritization of supportive policies for strategic investments; a range of practical interim technical and policy level interventions; and finally support to build capacity for planning, collecting, and synthesizing wastewater datasets.
Download the policy brief Towards a world free of untreated wastewater.