The use of water in urban areas involves the generation of wastewater that can be a source of pollution, a hazard for the health of human populations and the environment alike if it is not managed properly. In 2010, 63 per cent of the world population used appropriate sanitation facilities, which means that 2.5 billion people were still without improved sanitation (WHO and UNICEF, 2012). Nevertheless, there are great disparities between regions since virtually the entire population of the developed countries used suitable facilities (95 per cent), but in developing countries only half the population (56 per cent) used improved sanitation facilities. While in developing countries the main challenge is the implementation of wastewater treatment systems, in developed countries the objective is to treat wastewater without harming the environment (i.e. generating the lowest possible environmental impact). According to Val Lier et al. (1998), the criteria for sustainable wastewater treatment technology must include: (i) no dilution of highly polluted wastes with clean water; (ii) maximum recovery and reuse of treated water and by-products obtained from the pollution substances (i.e. irrigation, fertilization); (iii) application of efficient, robust and reliable treatment/conversion technologies that are low cost (in construction, operation and maintenance) and have a long lifetime, and are simple in operation and maintenance; (iv) applicable at any scale – very small and very big; (v) leading to a high self-sufficiency in all respects; and (vi) acceptable for the local population.
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