4 ways treating wastewater can change the world

4 ways treating wastewater can change the world

Water is one of the most important resources we have – and yet every day we are wasting it. This year’s World Water Day on March 22 takes up the theme of wastewater, and how we can create a better world by treating and reusing this resource.

One statistic makes the problem of wastewater incredibly clear: globally, over 80 percent of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Not only is this damaging to the environment and human health, but it is literally wasting a resource that could strengthen societies and economies.

Many communities and industries, however, are showing that this doesn’t have to be the case. Here are four ways that treating and reusing wastewater can make the world a better place.

1. Drastically reduce disease and childhood death

1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. According to a new report by the World Health Organization, 361,000 children under five years old die annually due to diarrhea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Xylem projects like installing water towers and building new treatment plants, however, are showing what a difference better water management can make.

2. Increase drinking water availability

By 2030, global demand for water is expected to grow by 50 percent. Most of this demand will be in cities and require new approaches to wastewater collection and management. One solution, as Xylem’s Colin Sabol points out, is to recycle wastewater for direct potable reuse. A new survey from Xylem found that 83 percent of Californians are open to using recycled water on a daily basis, which has long been a practice in Singapore and Israel.

3. Ensure food security while reducing pollution

Using treated wastewater is becoming an increasingly popular way for farmers to irrigate their fields. This can provide valuable nutrients to their crops and lower the usage of chemical fertilizers. Saudi Arabia, for example, plans by 2025 to reuse 100 percent of the wastewater produced in cities with 5,000 people or more. This recycled water will play an important role in the country’s agriculture and irrigation.

4. Lower water risks and costs for industries

According to UN-Water, industrial water consumption is responsible for 22 percent of global water use. As competition for water increases, water-related risks for companies are also increasing. For example, CDP’s Global Water Report 2016 found that companies reported $14 billion in water-related impacts in 2016, a five-fold increase from the previous year.

By treating and reusing their wastewater, however, companies can both improve water security and save money. For example, National Raisin, one of the largest raisin producers in the industry, saves $300,000 a year by reusing its wastewater.

Learn more about World Water Day 2017.

Xylem Watermark: From Word Water Day to Earth Day, Xylem employees are volunteering to help increase understanding of global water issues. Learn more: The Make Your Mark 30 Day Challenge.


by Chad Henderson