CEPT University India / Stockholm Environment Institute / Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative / UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility / Water Research Commission / Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit / Sustainable Sanitation Alliance

Balancing competing interests and opportunities for better wastewater governance

Sunday 27 August | 09.00-10.30 | Room: NL Music Hall
Vegetable production (Sarah Dickin)

The water crisis has been described as largely a governance crisis, however the role of wastewater has been overlooked in this discussion. With growing interest in harnessing the potential of wastewater, there is a growing need to address conflicting interests associated with managing and using this resource. From the perspective of environmental sustainability and public health, treatment is a priority to protect human communities and ecosystems. For farmers, wastewater treatment means loss of valuable nutrients. At the same time, wastewater is a valuable source of energy and entrepreneurs are finding innovative ways to treat and sell wastewater by-products. How do we navigate these conflicting interests from a policy and practical perspective?

This event will explore these questions, through a wide representation of wastewater stakeholders, including farmers, municipal representatives, public health and environmental practitoners, researchers, and entrepreneurs. We will take stock recent experiences and policies shared by stakeholders from different settings using a marketplace format where participants will listen to some of these perspectives in five minutes shifts. Next, a dynamic debate will be facilitated to identify key messages stemming from stakeholder experiences of utilizing wastewater in varied contexts and discuss how policy can address them more efficiently. 


09:00 Welcome
Alejandro Jiménez, SIWI

09:05 Setting- the scene – major challenges for wastewater governance, and brief overview of the different cases
Meera Mehta, CEPT

09:20 Introduction of the World Café set-up with five cases

09:25 Participants circulate the room to visit cases

  • Win-win agreements between municipalities and farmers on wastewater reuse. The case of Cliza Bolivia
    Gustavo Heredia, AguaTuya, Bolivia
  • Decentralized treatment of waste water, a municipality perspective Södertalje, Sweden
    Karl-Axel Reimer, Södertälje Municipality, Sweden
  • Experiences of Innovative governance models for wastewater in Durban, South Africa
    Jay Bhagwan, Water Research Commission, South Africa
  • New scalable business models for citywide sanitation
    Dinesh Mehta, and Meera Mehta, CEPT University, India
  • Reuse of treated wastewater in Jordan; from silence to outspoken success 
    Cecilia Carvalho Rodrigues, and Sameer Abdel-Jabbar, GIZ, Germany

10:00 Reflections from case presenters and discussion with audience

10:25 Concluding remarks
Birguy Lamizana, UNE

10:30 Close of session


There are conflicting interests associated with managing and using wastewater. For example, for environmentalists and public health, treatment is a priority to protect human communities and ecosystems. For farmers, water treatment means loss of valuable nutrients. How do we navigate conflicting interests from a policy and practical perspective? The aim of this session was to explore this question and bring together wastewater stakeholders to discuss different perspectives in managing and using wastewater. Recent experiences, tools and policies that are used by stakeholders in South Africa, India, Sweden, Bolivia and Jordan were presented in a marketplace format.

The presentations showed that all cases had to balance different interests. It takes time and you have to be patient. Cases that work seem to be decentralized. Wastewater reuse is for example always easier in a decentralized manner (in big cities you get pollutions from industries etc.).

Furthermore, it is important to find win-win solutions. For example in Cochabamba, Bolivia, stakeholders were able to identify common problems and interests and negotiate a solution so that a community of farmers decided to provide the land needed for a wastewater treatment plan in exchange of the right to use the treated water for irrigation.

In the case of Jordan water scarcity and the lack of other options pushed the decision makers to adopt the use of treated wastewater to overcome the mismatch between water supply and demand; freshwater is saved for drinking. Awareness of farmers was increased and they were trained on ways, and methods to make use of nutrients in the treated wastewater. The insights from Jordan could be useful for South Africa which is also affected by drought.