Successful examples of policies and legislations for regulating wastewater management

The 2017 theme for World Water Day ‘Wastewater’, and the new 2030 Agenda (i.e. Sustainable Development Goal 6.3 Water quality and wastewater) both underline that wastewater management is one of the biggest challenges to better protect human and ecosystem health. Although in most countries, wastewater management has lower priority than water provision, there is an urgent need to promote effective wastewater treatment and disposal, and to encourage the protection of aquatic receiving ecosystems. For these reasons, WaterLex aims to feature the 2015 publication: “Good Practices for Regulating Wastewater Treatment: Legislation, Policies and Standards”, a UNEP and WaterLex joint publication. This e-book features successful cases for regulating wastewater management in six countries: Argentina, Austria, Finland, Jordan, Singapore and South Africa.

1) Singapore: A unique holistic approach to water resource management

Singapore is a small city-state with the second highest population
density in the world and limited natural freshwater resources. It identified water as a national priority as early as 1971. The water strategy is based on the “Four National Taps”: 1) Water imports from neighbouring Malaysia; 2) rainfall storage from small catchments; 3) seawater desalination; and 4) the world’s first large scale wastewater reuse system for potable water production (NEWater).

Behind this success lies a strong and stable political will and vision which is recognised for its’ unique holistic approach to water resources management. This strategic approach combines several aspects:
Policy axis
Long-term planning and integrated public policies, keeping in mind the overall economic development of the country; water pricing to cover full production and supply costs; technological research to develop very high quality treated wastewater; and public education and involvement to develop ownership and gain support for water conservation.
Legislation axis
Strict laws (regularly amended and enacted according to needs), regular monitoring and enforcement.
Institutional axis
Restructured and coordinated institutions allowing for an integrated management of the whole water loop (the Public Utilities Board –in charge of all water and wastewater-related services, controls and administrations- and the National Environment Agency- overseeing the implementation of environmental policies- both under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources)

All photo credits: Public Utilities Board (PUB)