23.03.2017 - UNESCO Office in Harare

2017 UN World Water Development Report, “Wastewater: The Untapped Resource” launched

President Zuma addressing delegates at the launch

The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017, entitled "Wastewater: The Untapped Resource" was launched in Durban, South Africa on 22 March 2017. 

This edition of the World Water Development Report focuses on wastewater and seeks to inform policy- and decision-makers, inside and outside the water community, about the importance of managing wastewater as a resource, an undervalued and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable by-products, rather than something to be disposed of or a nuisance to be ignored. 

The launch coincided with the 2017 World Water Day Summit and Expo and was attended by several high-level officials including the President of South Africa, His Excellency Jacob Zumba and UNESCO Deputy Director General, Mr Getachew Engida. 

Addressing delegates at the launch, President Jacob Zuma called on world leaders to prioritise improved access to water resources and sanitation. 

"Thus far 147 countries have met SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) drinking water target. 95 countries have met the sanitation target and only 77 countries have met both. These statistics do not do justice in conveying the development and health challenges faced by so many people," he said.

Presenting the report, UN World Water Assessment Programme Coordinator, Professor Stefan Uhlenbrook emphasised that wastewater is not a nuisance but an untapped resource. 

“It can be used to offset water scarcity if we use it,” said Professor Uhlenbrook. 

“There are interesting by-products in the wastewater. Nutrients that are critical for plant growth can be used as fertilizer in agriculture. There’s a lot of organic content in wastewater which enables us to produce bio energy,” he added.

The world simply does not have enough water to go around. Speakers at the event concurred that what remains will have to be better managed by governments, better harvested by scientists and properly saved by everyone. 

Globally, the vast majority of all the wastewater from homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being treated or reused – polluting the environment, and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.

Instead of wasting wastewater, there is need to reduce and reuse it. In homes greywater can be reused on gardens and plots. In cities, wastewater can be treated and reused for green spaces. In industry and agriculture, wastewater can also be treated and recycled for things like cooling systems and irrigation.

By exploiting this valuable resource, the water cycle will work better for every living thing and help achieve the SDG 6 target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse.

To access the report, please follow this link: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/wwdr/2017-wastewater-the-untapped-resource/

For more information, please contact: p.oti-boateng(at)unesco.org or t.murenga(at)unesco.org 

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