Wastewater governance and the local, regional and global environments

Marianne Kjellén
Scientific Programme Committee of the World Water Week, United Nations Development Programme, Stockholm, Sweden; marianne.kjellen@undp.org

ABSTRACT: This paper introduces the themed section featuring selected papers from the 2017 World Water Week. The Week focused on 'Water and waste: reduce and reuse', in line with a circular economy, and embraced a broad set of perspectives relating to the challenges of water, sanitation and waste management. This paper reflects on the World Water Week theme and selected papers in the context of broader socio-environmental transitions, and how the governance of wastewater plays out at the local, regional and global levels. The papers explore the construction of engineering knowledge and its implication in pollution management, the monitoring of accountability in the provision of sanitation and water services and the way the equitable distribution of these services can improve girls’ educational attainment. This introductory paper reviews trends in water use, wastewater and reuse, and situates these within an environmental transition framework, showing how pollution burdens and risks are displaced onto the poorest or more distant populations. While these socio-environmental transitions are fuelled by economic growth, it is the policy actions or the overarching framework of governance that set the direction. Broader political alliances can put the necessary regulation in place and channel investments towards the cleaning or protection of the local, regional and potentially also the global environment. Lessening the burdens on disadvantaged people, by extending services, and fragile ecosystems, by curbing pollution, would be the purpose of a socially inclusive, circular, green economy.

KEYWORDS: Wastewater, reuse, sanitation, governance, environmental transitions