Nature-based solutions for urban wastewater management

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Wetlands area showing greenery and orange flowers

Wastewater management poses a significant global challenge, with the UN reporting that over 80% of generated wastewater is discharged untreated. Consequently, 6 out of 10 individuals lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, leading to approximately 1,000 child deaths daily from diarrheal diseases caused by contaminated water.

This challenge is particularly acute in (peri-) urban African towns experiencing rapid population growth. Outdated and under-capacity wastewater infrastructure struggles to cope with the escalating volumes, exacerbating the problem.

Conventional (centralised, off-site) wastewater treatment systems, despite being the default choice, are expensive, complex to manage, and unfavourable for the climate. Conversely, nature-based decentralised solutions that operate on-site, such as constructed wetlands and anaerobic baffle reactors (ABRs), are low-cost, easier to maintain, suitable for warm climate regions like Africa, and improve the climate landscape. Besides, these eco-friendly options require less technical expertise and can be managed by local communities, especially in closed settlement settings where there are already active residential associations with administrative responsibilities. Prioritising investment in these types of systems is crucial for safeguarding public health and the environment.

Nature-based solutions in action

WASTE is dedicated to promoting locally managed sanitation solutions and has introduced a Nature-Based Solution for Wastewater Treatment Project in Ethiopia in collaboration with like-minded organisations.

At the heart of this project is a tried and tested decentralised solution to treating community wastewater on site: constructed wetlands. This technology serves as a foundational element designed to address wastewater challenges sustainable and inclusively. By emphasising nature-based approaches, we are partnering worldwide to foster a greener and cleaner environment.

Three men in protective gear pouring water samples between bottles surrounded by greenery and apartment block in the background
Local team testing the water quality at established constructed wetlands project site in Ethiopia

Through the Nature-Based Solutions for Wastewater Treatment project, our aim is to:

  • Develop and introduce sustainable wastewater management systems.
  • Professionalise and capacitate local stakeholders such as water utilities, municipalities, knowledge institutions, water entrepreneurs on design, construction, management and maintenance of nature-based solutions.
  • Scale our approach through documentation and dissemination.
Our approach

To realise this, WASTE works with like-minded organisations, Ecofyt, World Waternet and BBBC and capacitates local stakeholders to work with the private sector. WASTE utilises its proven multi-stakeholder approach to connect all actors and work together to create a clean environment where communities live in healthy conditions.

Join us

Constructed wetlands represent just one example of a proven solution we are currently working with and looking to scale-up. It serves as a foundational technology that WASTE supports its partners in developing sustainable solutions for wastewater challenges. With nature-based solutions at the fore, together with our partners around the world, we are working to ensure a greener and cleaner future.

Get in touch with our Technology Lead on Sanitation and Wastewater, Henock Belete Asfaw, [email protected] to learn more about Nature-Based Solutions for Wastewater Treatment and help us to reach even more communities by partnering with us today.

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