Finland: Local and transboundary cooperation for wastewater management


There are abundant renewable water resources in Finland, with inland lakes and rivers making up 10% of the country. On the other hand, the Gulf of Finland is part of one of the most polluted seas in the world, i.e. the Baltic Sea which is very sensitive to excessive nutrient enrichment (eutrophication) and toxics pollutants (e.g. dioxin) input, due to high levels of human activity (e.g. steel and paper industries) in the large catchment area.

Finland has a comprehensive and participatory approach to wastewater management both at the national and at the regional level as a member of the European Union (e.g. EU Directives, UNECE Conventions, agreements governing the Baltic Sea). Another positive factor is a high level of technological development and investment. Through a twinning programme in wastewater utility management with St. Petersburg (Russia), Finland has shared its expertise and good legislative practices and helped to improve the quality of the waters in the Gulf of Finland.
Finland has also been very active
i) in the region through the work of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) to protect the unique ecosystem of the Baltic Sea, and
ii) in the implementation of international conventions like the Basel and Stockholm Conventions.

There is also a variety of small-scale wastewater treatment systems for rural areas in Finland: There are models available for single-family use, but also for use by several households connected to one system (the larger serving more than 10,000 people). Another interesting aspect is the 1,400 water co-operatives which were first established for water supply, but then expended their services to sewerage and wastewater treatment.

In transboundary cooperation, Finland has three commissions working together with the municipalities, business entrepreneurs, public authorities and other actors in the region; and dealing with transboundary waters and corresponding bilateral conventions:

  • The Border River Commission between Finland and Sweden
  • The Finnish-Norwegian Commission on Border Water Systems
  • The Finnish-Russian Joint Commission