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Investigating Current Issues with Global Wastewater Management Systems and Associated Health and Environmental Risks


  • Lakshmi Menon University of Washington



wastewater management, pathogens, chemicals, toxins


Inadequate or ineffectual wastewater management is a global issue, exposing wildlife and millions of people around the world to dangerous pathogens, chemicals, and toxins. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the negative environmental and public health impacts of inadequate wastewater treatment systems, investigate the disparity in wastewater management systems for countries of high versus low socioeconomic standing, and propose social, technological, and financial limitations that explain this gap in accessibility to sanitation systems.


To answer this question, sanitation case studies from third world and first world countries were synthesized and compared. The literature indicated that the absence of funding and technical expertise to operate intricate machinery has resulted in many countries being unable to implement historically coveted centralized wastewater management systems which are expansive, durable, and efficient. An emerging technology, decentralized wastewater management, may solve this problem as it is more cost-effective: these systems generally involve onsite construction of units only when necessary. While both of these options are employed extensively, millions of people continue to suffer from inadequate wastewater management due to social and logistical barriers, including public reluctance to wastewater reclamation (ie: the “yuck factor”) and unregulated government policies that lack close monitoring of wastewater management systems in developing countries.


Untreated domestic wastewater poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of the public and the environment. In particular, low-income regions are at a general disadvantage for treating wastewater due to a lack of resources. To combat the economic, technological, social, and political issues surrounding wastewater management, communities and their governments must work together to maintain transparency and open-mindedness to emerging solutions.


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