Solutions for smart wastewater management must be socially and culturally appropriate, as well as economically and environmentally viable
into the future.
Different approaches to wastewater management are required for different areas, rural and urban, with different population sizes, levels of economic development, technical capacity and systems of governance. Approaches can also vary depending on the quality standard required for end users or end point disposal. The sanitation ladder provides a useful instrument to assess the local status of sanitation in a community, mu- nicipality or region, pointing to optimal wastewater manage- ment strategies.
It is important that wastewater management approaches form part of the planning and development process, reflecting re- gional realities and cultural differences as well as externalities such as exposure to natural hazards or extreme conditions. Incremental approaches to wastewater management can con- tribute to long-term success.
Education and awareness must play a central role in wastewater management and in reducing over- all volumes and harmful content of wastewater produced, so that solutions are sustainable.
Wastewater is everyone’s concern in the home and at work. Education and awareness can influence behaviours to re- duce wastewater discharge and also to see the opportunities of managing wastewater in an environmentally friendly and financially sustainable way as part of the solution. Increased understanding of the links between wastewater and health, ecosystem functioning, food production and the potential ben- efits of wastewater reuse in contributing to development and improved wellbeing can increase uptake of initiatives.
It is vital that education and training in wastewater manage- ment and systematic engagement of stakeholders in all sectors throughout the entire project cycle is culturally specific and exemplifies or suggests solutions that can be modified to suit different settings. Education, awareness, advocacy and stew- ardship should be addressed at multiple levels, including the development of professional skills for improved inter-sectoral collaboration and multi-year financial planning.