Water treatment facilities are designed to speed up the natural process of purifying water. With billions of people and even more wastewater, the natural process is overloaded. Without wastewater treatment, the amount of wastewater would cause devastation, as it still does today in developing countries. Globally, over 80 percent of all wastewater is discharged without treatment.1 In the countries that do have water treatment facilities, they use various methods to treat water with one common goal: purify water as much as possible and send it back into the environment to keep humans and the Earth safe and thriving.
Wastewater contains elements toxic to humans and the ecosystem. Wastewater treatment facilities help to purify the water and eliminate situations like what is currently seen in developing countries. Unclean water poses significant health risks, accounting for 1.7 million deaths annually, of which over 90 percent are in developing countries.2 Several water-related diseases, including cholera and schistosomiasis, remain widespread across many developing countries, where only a very small fraction (in some cases less than 5 percent) of domestic and urban wastewater is treated prior to its release into the environment3.
Wastewater treatment also protects the ecosystem. Fish and aquatic life require fresh water. When their water environment is laden with wastewater, they cannot survive. If chemicals, such as nitrogen and phosphates, enter streams, rivers or large bodies of water in excessive amounts, it causes excessive plant growth which release toxins into the water. This leads to oxygen depletion and dead zones; areas where fish and other aquatic life can no longer exist.
While Mother Nature does her best to naturally process wastewater, there is too much for her to handle. Because the global population is so large and growing, so is wastewater. Nature can’t keep up with naturally processing the excessive amounts of wastewater. And, as the population grows, so does the amounts of wastewater.
Wastewater facilities mimic the natural process of purifying water and send it back into the environment. There are several ways to treat wastewater. The following infographic, Wastewater Treatment 1014, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains the basic operation of wastewater treatment.
The main goal of wastewater treatment facilities is to protect humans and the ecosystem from harmful and toxic elements found in wastewater. Water treatment facilities were designed to speed up the natural process of purifying water because the natural process is overloaded. These facilities are used to treat the wastewater in various ways and then send the purified water back into the environment.
1. UNESCO, 2017, World Water Development Report, Wastewater: The untapped resource, https://reliefweb.int/report/world/2017-un-world-water-development-report-wastewater-untapped-resource, Accessed March 10, 2020.
2. World Water Assessment Programme (UNESCO WWAP), https://en.unesco.org/wwap, Accessed October 11, 2022.
3. Better sewage treatment critical for human health and ecosystems, https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/better-sewage-treatment-critical-human-health-and-ecosystems, Accessed March 10, 2020.
4.What can you do to protect local waterways?, https://www3.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/ centralized_brochure.pdf, Accessed March 12, 2020.
Learn more about wastewater: What is Wastewater?