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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2020-156
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2020-156
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  27 Aug 2020

27 Aug 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Spatially-explicit estimates of global wastewater production, collection, treatment and re-use

Edward R. Jones1, Michelle T. H. van Vliet1, Manzoor Qadir2, and Marc F. P. Bierkens1,3 Edward R. Jones et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 2United Nations University: Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), Hamilton, Canada,
  • 3Deltares, Unit Soil and Groundwater Systems, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Abstract. Continually improving and affordable wastewater management provides opportunities for both pollution reduction and clean water supply augmentation, whilst simultaneously promoting sustainable development and supporting the transition to a circular economy. This study aims to provide the first comprehensive and consistent global outlook on the state of domestic and industrial wastewater production, collection, treatment and re-use. We use a data-driven approach, collating, cross-examining and standardising country-level wastewater data from online data resources. Where unavailable, data is estimated using multiple linear regression. Country-level wastewater data are subsequently downscaled and validated at 5 arc-minute (~ 10 km) resolution. This study estimates global wastewater production at 359.5 billion m3 yr−1, of which 63 % (225.6 billion m3 yr−1) is collected and 52 % (188.1 billion m3 yr−1) is treated. By extension, we estimate that 48 % of global wastewater production is released to the environment untreated, which is significantly lower than previous estimates of ~ 80 %. An estimated 40.7 billion m3 yr−1 of treated wastewater is intentionally re-used. Substantial differences in per capita wastewater production, collection and treatment are observed across different geographic regions and by level of economic development. For example, just over 16 % of the global population in high income countries produce 41 % of global wastewater. Treated wastewater re-use is particularly significant in the Middle East and North Africa (15 %) and Western Europe (16 %), while containing just 5.8 % and 5.7 % of the global population, respectively. Our database serves as a reference for understanding the global wastewater status and for identifying hotspots where untreated wastewater is released to the environment, which are found particularly in South and Southeast Asia. Importantly, our results also serve as a baseline for evaluating progress towards many policy goals that are both directly and indirectly connected to wastewater management (e.g. SDGs). Our spatially-explicit results available at 5 arc-minute resolution are well suited for supporting more detailed hydrological analyses such as water quality modelling and large-scale water resource assessments, and can be accessed at: https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.918731 (Jones et al., 2020). A temporary link to this dataset for the review process can be accessed at: https://www.pangaea.de/tok/6631ef8746b59999071fa2e692fbc492c97352aa.

Edward R. Jones et al.

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Global gridded wastewater production, collection, treatment and re-use Jones, Edward R; van Vliet, Michelle T H; Qadir, Manzoor; Bierkens, Marc F P https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.918731

Edward R. Jones et al.

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Short summary
Continually improving and affordable wastewater management provides opportunities for both pollution reduction and clean water supply augmentation. This study provides a global outlook on the state of domestic and industrial wastewater production, collection, treatment and re-use. Our results can serve as a baseline for evaluating progress towards policy goals (e.g. SDGs) and can be used as input data in a broad range of large-scale water resource assessments (e.g. water quality modelling).
Continually improving and affordable wastewater management provides opportunities for both...
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