Many developing countries have a problem dealing with wastewater from industry, homes, storm drains and other sources.
Urban municipalities are major producers of wastewater from sources that include industry, homes, business centres, storm drains and hospitals. Agricultural practices such as animal farm cleaning and dipping, and aquaculture are other sources of wastewater production in Africa.
Much of the clean water that urban areas use flows out through sewer systems and is supposed to be treated before being released back to the environment. The treated water should be in such a state that it can be discharged into rivers or oceans without major environmental and public health effects.
However, rapid urban growth and expansion of food production are putting pressure on disposal and treatment systems throughout the region. Africa's urban population is expected to increase by 450 million people by 2040. To manage, countries will need to match this growth with new infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment.
For this reason, GRID-Arendal is working with UN Environment and the African Development Bank on a project that will profile, as well as identify opportunities for private and public sector investment in wastewater management and sanitation delivery in Africa.
Treated wastewater can be used to irrigate crops and pasture for farm animals and for cooling processes in industrial plants such as boilers. Non-potable urban uses of wastewater include toilet flushing and firefighting, while environmental uses include groundwater recharge, and wetland enhancement and stream flow augmentation for recreation purposes.