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World Water Day: wastewater is a resource

Cloé Lefevre
13 June 2017
Every year, around 842,000 people die as a result of polluted water, lack of sanitary facilities, and poor hygiene. Approximately 663 million people do not have access to clean drinking water and more than 80% of wastewater flows back to nature without being treated. This results in significant damage to the environment and soil. Unfortunately, these figures only highlight a small portion of the immense problem of water availability and use on our planet.


On 22 March, the spotlight will be on water as part of World Water Day. This year, the UN has chosen the theme 'Why wastewater?' to promote the use of wastewater. There are three major objectives:

  • Reducing quantities of wastewater

  • Improving the collection, treatment and reuse of wastewater

  • Halving the use of non-treated wastewater, and significantly increasing the recycling and reuse of harmless wastewater

Quantities of wastewater are rising rapidly, and consequently so is pollution. This is related to population growth, rapid urbanisation and economic development. And yet wastewater management has barely taken root. Nonetheless, it represents a sustainable source of water, energy and nutrients. In other words, it is high time to consider wastewater as a resource instead of a problem.

Water is also an important issue for Belgium. In 2016, our country allocated 4.3% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to water and sanitation, primarily through the Belgian Development Cooperation. This was a clear increase compared with previous years.

Moreover, Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) of the UN Agenda 2030 focuses exclusively on water. SDG6 is designed to ensure that everyone has access to clean drinking water by 2030. This will require investment in reliable infrastructure, sanitary installations, and the promotion of hygiene at all levels.

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