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


Most human activities that use water produce wastewater. As the overall demand for water grows, the quantity of wastewater produced and its overall pollution load are continuously increasing worldwide. Over 80% of the world’s wastewater – and over 95% in some least developed countries – is released to the environment without treatment.

Once discharged into water bodies, wastewater is either diluted, transported downstream or infiltrates into aquifers, where it can affect the quality (and therefore the availability) of freshwater supplies. The ultimate destination of wastewater discharged into rivers and lakes is often the ocean with negative consequences for the marine environment.

The 2017 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report, entitled “Wastewater: The Untapped Resource”, demonstrates how improved wastewater management generates social, environmental and economic benefits essential for sustainable development and is essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In particular, the Report seeks to inform decision-makers, government, civil society and private sector, about the importance of managing wastewater as 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 report’s title reflects the critical role that wastewater is poised to play in the context of a circular economy, whereby economic development is balanced with the protection of natural resources and environmental sustainability, and where a cleaner and more sustainable economy has a positive effect on the water quality.

Improved wastewater management generates social, environmental and economic benefits, and is essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Download the report

WWDR 2017: Regional Launches

The WWDR 2017 provides the content and basis for debate throughout the year on the global theme of this year’s World Water Day: ‘Wastewater’. The Report illustrates that "the costs of improved wastewater management are usually outweighed by benefits in terms of human health, socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability". Actions to improve wastewater management fall under one of four categories: Reducing pollution at the source; Removing contaminants from wastewater flows; Reusing reclaimed water; and Recovering useful by-products.

In order to better disseminate the WWDR 2017 key findings and to add momentum to the pivot event for World Water Day celebrations in South Africa on 22 March, WWAP organizes an Information Meeting for the Representatives of the Member States at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (27 March) and at the UN Headquarters in New York (6 April).

In parallel, 30 regional launches of the WWDR are being organized around the world thanks to the initiative of local and national institutions, interested partners, UN agencies and their field offices. 

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