Commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), WaterLex has initiated a four-month-long study examining good practices in the regulation of wastewater treatment, including a review of wastewater laws, regulations, and norms in developed and undeveloped countries.

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The findings of the study, entitled “Wastewater Legislation, Policies and Standards: Good Practices in the Regulation of Wastewater Treatment,” will be compiled in a 50-page e-book. It will describe lessons learned and offer recommendations, said Moez Allaoui, WaterLex MENA programme manager, who is working on the project. He added that a series of five factsheets on implementation of wastewater law will showcase where regulation has resulted in a non-polluted environment. After a peer review, the documents will be disseminated by UNEP.

Context and Background

According to figures provided by international agencies, up to 90 percent of wastewater in developing countries flows untreated into rivers, lakes and coastal zones. This represents a considerable risk to health, food security and access to safe drinking water. At the same time, water quality is declining in areas that are dominated by agricultural and urban land use. Wastewater systems are usually not seen as the main cause of pollution, but they can and do contribute significantly to the deterioration of environment and water quality. However, they can also provide additional resources for  agriculture, industry and even domestic uses, easing water scarcity.

Adoption and implementation of high quality and adapted laws, regulations and standards could lead to major improvements in the way wastewater is managed. The enforcement of wastewater regulations differs from one country to another due to differences in infrastructure and availability of resources, capacities, and technologies, but best practices in this realm should be highlighted.


The aim of this study is to:

  • Provide an overview of legislation adopted by various developed and developing countries;
  • Make these laws accessible to interested countries to improve in wastewater legislation, policies and reform;
  • Promote the adoption of standards for the governments, management, operation and maintenance of wastewater reuse and wastewater utilities;
  • Contribute in the exchange of wastewater legislation knowledge and best practice among experts and professionals within the field through Global for and regional platforms.


The cases will be selected to primarily cover a cross-section of different economic settings, legislative systems, settlement patterns, and ecosystems into which wastewater is discharged. Secondly, the selected cases will be broadly representative in a geographical sense. Various cases will represent developed countries with decentralized public wastewater management; emerging economies that have experimented with innovative processes in wastewater reuse; developing countries confronted by challenges of  water scarcity and development inequality that are reaching satisfactory results through the implementation of public private partnerships.

For every case the study will review the state of recognition of the international instruments, an analysis of command and control law related to environment and wastewater management, as well as procedural law and standards measuring their implementation.


For more information:

WaterLex International Secretariat
Tel: +41 22 907 36 46
Email: info (at)

About WaterLex:

WaterLex is an international public interest development organization and membership association based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a UN-Water Partner with UN ECOSOC special consultative status. Its mission is to develop sustainable solutions based on human rights to improve water governance worldwide, particularly in regard to consistent water law and policy frameworks. It works with an alliance of interested parties to improve water-governance frameworks, bringing them in line with country obligations under international human rights law. The interested parties are individuals and groups working in government (diplomatic missions), academia (professors of law, researchers), bilateral cooperation (water management advisors), the judiciary (high/supreme courts judges), the UN system (UN-Water family members), and civil society (NGOs that work on water issues). WaterLex works in partnership with 13 universities to continuously enrich the content of the WaterLex Legal Database. The organisation is funded by grants and project financing from public agencies, foundations, private gifts, and in-kind contributions. Established in 2010, when the human right to water was recognised by the UN, the organisation has a secretariat in Geneva with nine staff members, a supervisory board of directors, and a large pool of members and expert advisors. It is an official partner of the Global Water Partnership, UNDP Cap-Net, UNDP GWS, UNEP Global Wastewater Initiative, and UNECE, and a member of the board of the Swiss Water Partnership.