8.56 bn cubic meters of wastewater needs to be treated yearly to meet UN goals, says ABB report

  • Industry News
  • Mar 23,23
To reach UN water targets by 2030, global wastewater treatment capacity needs to increase by 8.56 billion cubic meters each year with additional investment in 469 wastewater treatment facilities, reveals ABB’s Energy Transition Equation for Wastewater.
8.56 bn cubic meters of wastewater needs to be treated yearly to meet UN goals, says ABB report

Wastewater treatment plant city

On March 22, 2023, the world celebrated World Water Day (WWD). Ahead of the day, ABB, the technology leader in electrification and automation, released an independent research— ABB’s Energy Transition Equation for Wastewater. The report shows that the global wastewater treatment capacity needs to increase annually by 8.56 billion cubic meters and investment in an additional 469 treatment facilities per year is required to meet United Nations (UN) goals. (The figure of 469 is based on a 50-million-litre daily capacity greenfield plant and is calculated by dividing the 8.56 billion m3 by the 50 ml daily capacity, assuming 365 days of operation.)

The UN prepares a report on progress made against its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), ABB’s research focuses on SDG 6.3* which aims to improve water quality by halving the proportion of untreated wastewater globally, increasing recycling, and minimising the release of hazardous materials. According to the UN, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water, while more than 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation. However, according to a report**, ‘wastewater treatment for carbon capture and utilisation’, treating wastewater is energy-intensive, with the industry consuming up to three per cent of the world’s total energy output and contributing to over 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“This research proves more needs to be done to help support the UN goals and accelerate progress in tackling water scarcity,” said Brandon Spencer, President of ABB Energy Industries. “But we need to ensure we are achieving these wastewater treatment targets in the most energy and resource-efficient way possible to make it sustainable. This is where technology is the key.”

While expanding the capacity for wastewater treatment is the priority, it is also important to integrate technology to drive efficiency at plants.  ABB’s automation, electrification and digital solutions are helping monitor, analyse and manage wastewater plant operations. In association with crucial measurement and control solutions, which collect and transmit a wealth of operational and diagnostic data, ABB systems help optimise resource efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Development Economics, which has over 20 years of research experience, utilised the same data employed by the UN to assess what real-term measures are needed. Based on modelling using a 50-million-litre daily capacity wastewater treatment plant as the benchmark, a further 469 treatment facilities – the volume equivalent of 3.4 million Olympic swimming pools–is required each year.

The scale of the challenge linked to UN SDG 6.3 is highlighted in a report from 2021 assessing the volumes of wastewater collected, treated, and reused. The research, which is used by the UN, concludes that 48 per cent or 171.3 billion cubic meters of wastewater is uncollected or untreated annually. To meet SDG 6.3 – which targets halving the proportion of untreated wastewater by 2030 – these figures need to be reduced to 24 per cent and 85.65 billion cubic meters.

In 2022, ABB’s Energy Transition Equation report analysed how better use of wastewater could relieve pressure on water supplies through greater integration of automation and digital technologies:
• Wastewater sites can reduce carbon emissions by up to 2,000 tons per annum
• With over 50,000 plants worldwide, 100 million tons of CO2 could be saved each year
• By applying a package of automation and digital solutions, water companies can reduce carbon emissions as well as deliver annual operational savings of up to $1.2 million per plant

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