IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

10.2.2 Wastewater generation

Most countries do not compile annual statistics on the total volume of municipal wastewater generated, transported and treated. In general, about 60% of the global population has sanitation coverage (sewerage) with very high levels (>90%) characteristic for the population of North America (including Mexico), Europe and Oceania, although in the last two regions rural areas decrease to approximately 75% and 80%, respectively (DESA, 2005; Jouravlev, 2004; PNUD, 2005; WHO/UNICEF/

WSSCC, 2000, WHO-UNICEF, 2005; World Bank, 2005a). In developing countries, rates of sewerage are very low for rural areas of Africa, Latin America and Asia, where septic tanks and latrines predominate. For ‘improved sanitation’ (including sewerage + wastewater treatment, septic tanks and latrines), almost 90% of the population in developed countries, but only about 30% of the population in developing countries, has access to improved sanitation (Jouravlev, 2004; World Bank, 2005a, b). Many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia lack reliable benchmarks for the early 1990s. Regional trends (Figure 10.4) indicate improved sanitation levels of <50% for Eastern and Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank and IMF, 2006). In Sub-Saharan Africa, at least 450 million people lack adequate sanitation. In both Southern and Eastern Asia, rapid urbanization is posing a challenge for the development of wastewater infrastructure. The highly urbanized region of Latin America and the Caribbean has also made slow progress in providing wastewater treatment. In the Middle East and North Africa, the countries of Egypt, Tunesia and Morocco have made significant progress in expanding wastewater-treatment infrastructure (World Bank and IMF, 2006). Nevertheless, globally, it has been estimated that 2.6 billion people lack improved sanitation (WHO-UNICEF, 2005).

Figure 10.4

Figure 10.4: Regional data for 1990 and 2003 with 2015 Millenium Development Goal (MDG) targets for the share of population with access to improved sanitation (sewerage + wastewater treatment, septic system, or latrine).

Source: World Bank and IMF (2006)

Estimates for CH4 and N2O emissions from wastewater treatment require data on degradable organic matter (BOD; COD) and nitrogen. Nitrogen content can be estimated using Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data on protein consumption, and either the application of wastewater treatment, or its absence, determines the emissions. Aerobic treatment plants produce negligible or very small emissions, whereas in anaerobic lagoons or latrines 50–80% of the CH4 potential can be produced and emitted. In addition, one must take into account the established infrastructure for wastewater treatment in developed countries and the lack of both infrastructure and financial resources in developing countries where open sewers or informally ponded wastewaters often result in uncontrolled discharges to surface water, soils, and coastal zones, as well as the generation of N2O and CH4. The majority of urban wastewater treatment facilities are publicly operated and only about 14% of the total private investment in water and sewerage in the late 1990s was applied to the financing of wastewater collection and treatment, mainly to protect drinking water supplies (Silva, 1998; World Bank 1997).

Most wastewaters within the industrial and agricultural sectors are discussed in Chapters 7 and 8, respectively. However, highly organic industrial wastewaters are addressed in this chapter, because they are frequently conveyed to municipal treatment facilities. Table 10.2 summarizes estimates for total and regional 1990 and 2001 generation in terms of kilograms of BOD per day or kilograms of BOD per worker per day, based on measurements of plant-level water quality (World Bank, 2005a). The table indicates that total global generation decreased >10% between 1990 and 2001; however, increases of 15% or more were observed for the Middle East and the developing countries of South Asia.

Table 10.2: Regional and global 1990 and 2001 generation of high BOD industrial wastewaters often treated by municipal wastewater systems.

Regions Kg BOD/day [Total, Rounded] (1000s) Kg BOD/worker/ day Primary metals (%) Paper and pulp (%) Chemicals (%) Food and beverages (%) Textiles (%) 
Year 1990 2001 1990 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 
1. OECD North America 3100 2600 0.20 0.17 15 11 44 
2. OECD Pacific 2200 1700 0.15 0.18 20 46 
3. Europe 5200 4800 0.18 0.17 22 40 
4. Countries in transition 3400 2400 0.15 0.21 13 50 14 
5. Sub-Saharan Africa 590 510 0.23 0.25 12 60 13 
6. North Africa 410 390 0.20 0.18 10 50 25 
7. Middle East 260 300 0.19 0.19 12 10 52 11 
8. Caribbean, Central and South America 1500 1300 0.23 0.24 11 61 11 
9. Developing countries, East Asia 8300 7700 0.14 0.16 11 14 10 36 15 
10. Developing countries, South Asia 1700 2000 0.18 0.16 42 35 
Total for 1-4 (developed) 13900 11500               
Total for 5-10 (developing) 12800 12200               

Note: Percentages are included for major industrial sectors (all other sectors <10% of total BOD).

Source: World Bank, 2005a.