About UNEP
United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
top image
space space space
Newsletter and Technical Publications
<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>


The deterioration of water quality and the consequence public health problems facing many communities worldwide have been recognised for sometime. The United Nations Water Decade (1981-1990) was a major initiative to address the need to provide safe drinking water and sanitation to the two-thirds world without access to these. These problems still exist due to the increasing world population, and the proportion of communities without adequate sanitation has remained at approximately two thirds. These problems are compounded by the rapid migration of rural population to the fringes of cities. This trend of urbanisation has been forecast to continue for sometime into the future. Communities growing rapidly around urban areas are also those with little resources and with low incomes.

Urban managers are faced with the problem of how to provide adequate wastewater and stormwater services, and how to allocate priorities with competing demands for other urban infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools. Communities themselves are aware on a daily basis of the lack of services and are similarly confronted by the problem of how to overcome them with very limited available resources within the community. Although these problems are severe in urban areas, many rural communities are also faced with poor or deteriorating sanitation facilities.

Developing countries experience the largest share of the problems described above. Countries in economic-transition also suffer from inadequate or deteriorating infrastructure needing restoration. Even in the developed countries questions have been asked as to whether the current way of providing wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is environmentally sustainable in the longer term.

Purpose and intended audience of the Source Book

The solution to the problem of lack of wastewater and stormwater management does not lie simply in expending more of the limited available funds. Access to information has been identified as a major issue, and is the reason for this Source Book. It follows an earlier publication by UNEP-IETC covering the management of municipal solid waste (International Source Book on Environmentally Sound Technologies for Municipal Solid Waste Management), and for largely the same reason. Lessons learned from the adoption or adaptation of technologies in a particular situation have not often reached people elsewhere who can benefit from them. Practices that are deemed to constitute 'environmentally sound technologies' in one place are not generally known in another. A case in point is the highly successful low-cost 'condominium sewerage' first practised in Brazil but largely unknown elsewhere. There also appears to be a lack of appreciation amongst those with the responsibility for providing wastewater treatment of the basis of the treatment technology. High technology processes, such as the activated sludge process, have been equated with better-treated wastewater, when simpler technologies, such as lagooning, can achieve the same or better quality water. The scientific basis for the physical and biochemical processes is largely the same for both, and the same processes operate in natural purification of human excreta. Thus providing information and understanding, and where further information can obtained, is an aim of the Source Book. In addition the Source Book attempts to provide guidance on how to synthesise the available information for application in a particular setting.

The primary intended audience of the Source Book is decision-makers who are involved in providing wastewater and stormwater services. Decision-making takes place at various levels. Politicians/ top ranking government officials/ city mayors and city managers represent one level, where prioritising the need for the services and providing funding is the concern. Professionals provide advice to the above and are involved in implementing wastewater and stormwater projects. Community leaders need to be involved in any service provision to the community. The private sector may be involved in financing, constructing or operating a service.

UNEP-IETC's mandate places emphasis on the management of wastewater and stormwater in urban areas. Urban areas invariably range in population density from a highly dense central districts to lower density areas towards the fringes. On the other hand rural areas may have high density populated sections. The coverage of this Source Book includes the range of technologies that can be applied in these cases. In this way it is hoped that the Source Book has a wider application. The Regional Overviews include Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as these are within the area of interests of UNEP.

The Source Book has been written to cater to the general needs of the above, but has been aimed more particularly to the middle to upper levels of decision-making. Training Materials have been prepared for three levels of decision-making. A one to two day workshop module for top level decision makers (Group A); a 5 to 10 day module for professionals from government and the private sector (Group B), and a half-day to one day seminar for community leaders and the public (Group C).

Training Materials for Group B will cover all aspects of this Source Book, while appropriate selections from the Source Book will constitute Training Materials for Group A and C. Suggested coverage for these groups is indicated below.

Group A
Costs of wastewater and stormwater mis-management
Framework for wastewater and stormwater management
Technology options and selection
Environmentally sound practice
Group B
Framework for wastewater and stormwater management


Problems facing communities without adequate sanitation
Integrated waste management
Cross-cutting issues
Environmentally sound technologies and practices
Understanding the basis for sound technologies
Wastewater and stormwater collection, treatment, reuse and disposal options
Sludge management
Technology choice
Sustainable scenarios
Regional overview and information sources
Learning from what is happening in other regions
Group C
Health, hygiene and sanitation
Community issues and processes
Technology options and choice
Options for local community
Examples from other regions and communities
Implementation in the local situation

The Source Book brings together experiences and ideas from all regions of the world: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America. There are vast differences among and within these regions in social, economic and environmental conditions. But there are also many similarities across the regions and over time. The dire sanitation problems in many cities in developing countries were experienced in European cities during the industrial revolution period. People can learn from both avoiding the mistakes and adopting or adapting sound practices applied elsewhere, provided that information is made available. The Source Book aims to facilitate the sharing of information among all regions with the aim of promoting environmentally sound technology practices.

The need for better access to information on sanitation has also been felt by other organisations. UNEP-IETC is collaborating with United Nations Development Programme/World Bank (UNDP/WB) Water and Sanitation Program in producing a complementary Resource Guide on Urban Environmental Sanitation. This Source Book will focus primarily on technology and its practice, while the Resource Guide on the economic, social and institutional issues that affect sound technology practice. UNEP-IETC is also collaborating with WHO Sewage Clearinghouse by providing information on sanitation technology through its maESTro Environmentally Sound Technology data-base (Appendix 3).

The WHO Sewage Clearinghouse is an initiative of UNEP Global Programme of Action (GPA). At the time of printing of this Source Book is developing into a collaborative initiative involving WHO Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), the International Water Association (IWA) and UNEP GPA under the name Sanitation Connection. UNEP GPA is publishing a brief publication entitled 'Recommendations for Decision Making on Municipal Wastewater - Practical guidance for implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the protection of the marine environment from land based activities'.


      Main Menu


  • Brochure
  • IETC Brochure

  • International Year of Forests
  • International Year of Forests

  • World Environment Day
  • ??????

  • UNEP Campaign
  • UNite to Combat Climate Change