Global Status Report Shows Lack of Data on Industrial Wastewater
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SDG target 6.3 sets out several water quality objectives, including halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse of water.

The report explains the methodology used to develop the global baseline on wastewater, and provides definitions of the terms used in the two sub-indicators that relate to domestic and industrial wastewater.

The report recommends using the International Standard Industrial Classification codes to identify heavy polluters, pollution sources, and types of pollution, as a basis for applying the “polluter pays” principle, especially with regard to industrial pollution.

26 August 2018: The World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Habitat have launched a global status report on wastewater treatment, on behalf of UN-Water. The report is based on data from 79 countries, and finds that only 59% of domestic wastewater flow is collected and safely treated, and insufficient information is available for estimates of industrial wastewater treatment.

SDG target 6.3 sets out several objectives for improving water quality, including halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse of water. An indicator for this target (6.3.1) measures “Proportion of wastewater safely treated,” through two sub-indicators on domestic and industrial wastewater (SDG indicators 6.3.1a and 6.3.1b, respectively).

The report explains the methodology used to develop the global baseline on wastewater, and provides definitions of the terms used in the sub-indicators on domestic and industrial wastewater. The authors caution that their findings probably represent the “upper limit” of current achievements, as the data come mostly from high-income and middle-income countries, and likely do not reflect the situation in many Asian and African countries.

The report draws attention to the contributions of SDG target 6.3, if achieved, to other elements of the 2030 Agenda.

The agencies highlight that many millions of people are at risk from contaminated water, and urge policy makers to regulate and enforce pollution control measures. They emphasize the need to better harmonize reporting on this issue through the application of common metrics.

The report also draws attention to the contribution of SDG target 6.3, if achieved, to other elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for example, in relation to drinking water, sanitation, and water-use efficiency (SDG targets 6.1, 6.2, and 6.4, respectively), reduction of waterborne diseases (SDG target 3.3), water availability to boost food production (SDG target 2.4), nutrition (SDG target 2.2), and sustainable urbanization (SDG target 11.2).

The report recommends using the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) codes to identify heavy polluters, pollution sources, and types of pollution as a basis for applying the “polluter pays” principle, especially with regard to industrial pollution. It also proposes an additional SDG indicator to capture the extent of wastewater reuse.

The wastewater baseline report was one of seven such studies launched by UN-Water at World Water Week 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden. It was prepared under the UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6, which brings together three complementary initiatives: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP), Integrated Monitoring of Water and Sanitation-Related SDG Targets (GEMI), and UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS). [Publication: Progress on Wastewater Treatment: Piloting the Monitoring Methodology and Initial Findings for SDG Indicator 6.3.1] [Publication Webpage] [UN-Water Press Release] [All coverage of World Water Week 2018, including series of monitoring reports] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on baseline report on ambient water quality]


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