Progress on Wastewater Treatment – 2021 Update
Number of pages
Publication date
UN-Habitat | WHO | UN-Water

Progress on Wastewater Treatment – 2021 Update

Target 6.3 is: “By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally”.

Indicator 6.3.1 tracks the proportion of total, industrial and household wastewater flows safely treated in compliance with national or local standards. The household component includes both sewage and faecal sludge, treated on-site or off-site, with linkages to indicator 6.2.1a on sanitation.

This report presents the global status on wastewater treatment and acceleration needs to achieve target 6.3 by 2030, based on the latest data on indicator 6.3.1 (total wastewater flows as well as flows from industrial sources and households).

In 2015, in the 42 countries (representative of 18 per cent of the global population) reporting both generation and treatment of total wastewater flows, 32 per cent received at least some treatment. The proportion of industrial wastewater flow treated was 30 per cent, and could only be calculated for 14 countries (representing 4 per cent of the global population). There are insufficient data to produce global and regional estimates.

Globally, 56 per cent of household wastewater flows were safely treated in 2020 (extrapolated from data from 128 countries representing 80 per cent of the global population). Wide disparities among the regional proportions of household wastewater safely treated were discovered (ranging from 25 per cent to 80 per cent by SDG region), indicating that progress remains uneven across the globe.

Download the country files

General podcast

Alexander Verbeek - Podcaster and writer of The Planet newsletter, Policy Director at The Environment and Development Resource Centre

Jerry Asumbere - Senior Program Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency in Ghana (EPA-Ghana)

Wayne Williams -  Executive Director of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA)

Dr. Rose Kaggwa - Director of Business and Scientific Services of the National Water & Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) in Uganda

Hendra Gupta - Project Manager for Regenerating Sanitation Hub at Asia Institute of Technology, Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (AIT-BORDA) in Thailand

Sam Drabble - Head of Research and Learning at Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP)

Maria Eugenia de la Pena - Water and Sanitation Specialist at the Inter-American Development


Dr. Khaldon Khashman - Secretary General of the Arab Countries Water Utilities Association (ACWUA)