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Wastewater treatment across the world: which countries recycle the most and where is the best water quality?

We have summed up a few highlights about wastewater treatment around the globe. Keep reading and find out which countries recycle the most and which are greatly falling behind.

Israel leads world in water recycling

Israel owns all the water in the country from limited freshwater, to underground water, and seawater. This means that if you chose to dig a well in Israel, you would need the approval of the authorities.

FYI, in the U.S., if you have a source of water on your private property, you have the right to dig the well.

How is it related to wastewater treatment? As mentioned earlier, Israel controls all water resources in the country and manages wastewater as well.

Israel is the world leader in wastewater recycling. Nearly 90% of wastewater in Israel is treated for reuse, most of it in agricultural irrigation.

18,000 WWTPs and millions of kilometers of pipes

While Israel reuses almost all of its wastewater, Europe recycles merely 60%. The future goal is, naturally, to recycle the entire volume.

In order to achieve that we must maintain and upgrade our wastewater treatment plants, if necessary.

As of today, there are 18,000 WWTPs in operation in Europe, with 3 million kilometres long pipes in total.

50% of global wastewater is treated

Do you find 52% little or a lot? In terms of global wastewater treatment, it is a satisfactory percentage since until now, it has been said that only 20% of wastewater was treated worldwide.

UN’s and Utrecht University’s findings suggest that 52% of global wastewater is treated in the WWTPs. So, the percentage is higher than previously expected.

If you find it too little, imagine that this amount of water would fill 75 millions of Olympic-size swimming pools.

Slovakia treats 65% of urban wastewater

The data from 2017 provided by the European Environmental Agency show charts with the amount of urban wastewater treated in Slovakia and the methods used.

With the total percentage above 65% of treated urban wastewater, Slovakia is not the last on the list, but still significantly falls behind Netherlands, Britain, Austria, and Germany.

Furthermore, most of the water receives only secondary treatment. At this stage, bacteria are added to the water to degrade the biological waste, creating sludge on the bottom. Such treated water can be released into water flows, but is not suitable for drinking.


Retrieved from: eea.europa.eu

Unlike Slovakia, many countries also employ tertiary treatment, a process which improves the quality to such an extent that the water can be used for drinking and crop growing.

Three countries with the top water quality

Countries at the top of the European Environmental Agency’s list also ranked first on global scale.

Switzerland has the highest possible urban water treatment quality and, according to the World Health Organization, it has the best tap water quality in the world.

How is it possible? Switzerland has strict water treatment standards and superior natural resources (underground water, rainfall, natural springs).

It is followed by New Zealand and Norway, which have made significant strides in infrastructure in the last decades, allowing 9 out of 10 Norwegian residents to receive water from waterworks monitored by the government.

China’s strong focus on treatment neglects recycling

Growing population and urbanization over the past few decades have led to the increase in wastewater discharge in China. The country treats the major part of wastewater, with data suggesting up to 80%.

The paradox is that only 10% is recycled. You can say that the Chinese neglect water recycling.

There are several challenges. The low percentage is caused mainly by poor water quality. This means that, even when the water is treated, it does not achieve sufficient quality for reuse.

Low recycling is also caused by imperfect drainage networks and low profitability for some managers of the wastewater treatment plants.

Worst situation is in the regions

Now you know which country recycles the most and what is the wastewater treatment situation in Slovakia. In conclusion, see the latest findings on which countries treat the least wastewater based on the data by Utrecht University. The university suggests that the low treatment level is related to low income in the regions.

So, it is not surprising that African countries fall behind in wastewater treatment the most.


Retrieved from: inweh.unu.edu

Almost all of the countries, including Chad, Congo, Somalia, and Sudan, treat less than 5% of wastewater.

Morocco, Algeria, South Africa, and Botswana scored a little better. The data suggest these countries treat 25 to 50% of water.

Yet it is these countries, tormented by extreme droughts, that would welcome larger drinking water reserves. We can only hope that the situation in wastewater treatment also improves in Africa.

Even though Hydrotech has not built any WWTPs in Africa, our projects range from Latvia, to Russia, Cyprus, Poland, and Czech Republic.

If you wish to have a wastewater treatment plant built in Slovakia or abroad, you can count on Hydrotech.

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