As part of World Water Day 2017, WaterLex features the publication: “Good Practices for Regulating Wastewater Treatment: Legislation, Policies and Standards” a UNEP and WaterLex joint publication. The study shows successful cases for regulating wastewater management in six countries: Argentina, Australia, Finland, Jordan, Singapore and South Africa.


Case study number 1: Singapore
Singapore is a small city-state with the second highest population density in the world and limited natural freshwater resources. Already in 1971, it identified water as a national priority.
Today, one of the pillars of Singapore’s water sustainability strategy is NEWater ­a high-grade reclaimed water. Produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultra-violet disinfection, this recycled water is safe to drink.

What lies behind the success of the world’s first large scale wastewater reuse system for potable water production? Read more about this unique holistic approach to water resources management and download the report.


Case study number 2: South Africa
For decades until 1994, public policy and the legal framework in South Africa were based on racial segregation affecting all spheres of life, with the result that up to 20 million South Africans were living without adequate sanitation. With the fall of the apartheid regime, a new policy was implemented based on a democratic system which also extended to the legislation and policies relating to wastewater management.
Today, the South African policy regarding wastewater management is based on a human rights-based approach, i.e. a process of human development aligned with international human rights standards and directed to promote, protect and implement them. Read more about this human rights-based approach to wastewater management.


Case study number 3: Jordan
Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water availability per capita in the world. The Syrian crisis, the population increase, and the changing precipitation patterns in the region further aggravate the water scarcity impacts.
A key point in their Wastewater Management Policy is that treated effluent must be considered as a water resource and not separated in policy from other water resources. Today, wastewater treatment plants provide secondary high quality reclaimed water (with ca. 90 % being reused in agriculture) and national water resources are thereby increasing. Read more about the specific goals stated for wastewater.


Case study number 4: Finland

Finland has abundant renewable water resources, with inland lakes and rivers making up 10% of the country. On the other hand, the Gulf of Finland is part of one of the most polluted seas in the world, i.e. the Baltic Sea.

Finland has a comprehensive and participatory approach to wastewater management both at the national and at the regional level as a member of the European Union. Another positive factor is a high level of technological development and investment. Finland has also been very active i) in the region through the work of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) to protect the unique ecosystem of the Baltic Sea, and ii) in the implementation of international conventions like the Basel and Stockholm Conventions. Read more about the local and transboundary cooperation of wastewater in Finland.

Case study number 5: Australia 
Australia is the driest inhabited continent and water scarcity has been worsening during last decades, with growing population and climate change effects. As a result, most inhabitants of big cities realized the need to protect their limited water resources. Between 2000 and 2009, the country managed to reduce water consumption per capita by 40%, and joined those water-scarce countries in recognizing wastewater as a valuable resource.

The City of Melbourne (4 million inhabitants), one of Australia’s largest and driest cities, provides a good illustration of this evolution. Read more about environmental awareness in Australia and their lagoon-based wastewater treatment plants.

Case study number 6: Argentina
With 92% of the population being urban, most of the population has access to improved water and sanitation facilities in Argentina, but only half of it is connected to the wastewater collecting system and treatment and only ca. 10% of collected sewage is treated before being discharged.

The highest concentration of urban poor in Argentina can be found in the Matanza-Riachuelo River basin (home to 6.1 million inhabitants) located in Buenos Aires Province. With ca. only 5% of the Buenos Aires City’s wastewater being treated, this river basin is one of the 30 most polluted in the world by urban domestic wastewater and by the untreated effluents from several thousand industries.

Read more about human rights obligations and civil society commitments.