Richer nations must invest in their water systems to solve the 80% of untreated wastewater globally
Using economies of scale to solve the world's water crises
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 80% of the world's wastewater treatment is untreated and discharged back into our ecosystems. Inaction has unimaginable consequences for wildlife and drives disease and poverty.
“Wastewater has featured heavily in the discussions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Countries have recognised that economic and sustainable development must incorporate water resources, wastewater and water quality. This publication contributes to the ongoing discussions and will hopefully serve to inform policymakers.”
The Chair of UN-Water, Michel Jarraud
The democratisation of wastewater systems to developing nations is one of the most significant challenges we face, and we believe that richer countries must invest in developing their own to solve this problem.
The economics of wastewater systems is like any other innovation. Let's take mobile phones as an example. In the 1990's no one believed that in the future most people, especially those in developing nations would have access to mobile communications device let alone the most potent democratisation of information the world has ever seen. It began as a fad and was dismissed by many as always going to be too expensive.
The richer in society started the market for this by paying for the latest technology, as the marketplace seen the potential, it began to expand, and economies of scale brought them within reach of ordinary people. Fast forward to 2019, and 63% of the total population have access to an internet-enabled smartphone.
We have seen this model of democratisation of goods and services repeated over and over with different innovations, in many different sectors whether it is consumer based or at an industrial scale.
The expansion is vital for all water systems; however, we are going to discuss our area of expertise. Activated sludge is the form of wastewater treatment for most plants, and the aeration systems haven't had any real innovation in over 100 years, until OxyMem made MABR commercially available.
Now it is time to look at wastewater and water systems. This is the most precious resource we have and neglect is resulting in a lack of security for developed nations and poverty and misery for developing nations. These impacts have real and immediate consequences that cannot be denied.
Considering most regulations on wastewater discharge to the environment have only come in the late 1980s, early '90s, it is clear that this hasn't been a priority over time, but we hope that recent indicators, close to home, like droughts and floods will focus the view of key decision makers in our societies.
If developed nations can invest in water and wastewater infrastructure they are sending a signal to the market will result in massive investment from private hands and to our institutions to promote education and action in this field. The increased focus on this market would make wastewater systems more competitive, allow innovation to flourish, create more production, to lead to economies of scale, that would bring effective wastewater treatment systems within reach for developing nations.
Richer countries can better invest, advise and support developing nations when we they invest in their own water infrastructure to find the best way forward.
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