World Bank Group

09/16/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/15/2021 18:08

Circular Economy: An Opportunity to Transform Urban Water Services

The report shines a spotlight on global experiences that are already reaping benefits.

For example, the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) in India has embarked on several projects and investments to diversify water supply and become more circular and resilient to droughts. Since 2005, CMWSSB has been implementing several projects to treat and reuse wastewater. It sells the treated wastewater to industrial users and with the additional revenues covers all operating and maintenance costs, recovering the capital investment in the reuse project in less than five years. CMWSSB also retrofitted seven of its wastewater treatment plants to recover energy from wastewater and supply more than 50 percent of the energy needs of all the plants, thus saving on energy costs, helping sustain operations financially and reducing GHGs. The energy generation investment had a payback period of 2.8 years.

The report also showcases different approaches by water utilities to become circular and resilient, including:

  • the implementation of energy efficiency and non-revenue water reduction programs that have recovered the investments in a short period of time while saving water and energy and increasing the amount of people with access to services, such as the cases of Indonesia, Cambodia and Uruguay.

  • the recovery of resources from wastewater and the creation of new revenue streams by selling energy, water, and fertilizers to cover operating costs, such as the case of China and Senegal (PDF).

  • the application of circular economy and resiliency principles in long-term strategies to become carbon neutral, recover resources from water and preserve the environment while providing water services, such as the case of Portugal.

  • the assessment of the full potential of the existing infrastructure, resulting in huge savings in delayed capital investments, such as the case of Brazil.

These cases demonstrate that circular economy approaches are key to build water-secure cities.

'Many cities around the world are struggling to address the challenges resulting from climate change, population growth, aging infrastructure, and increasing exposure to natural disasters, as shown by the recent floods in Europe, India, and China, and the severe water shortages affecting places so diverse as Cape Town, Chennai, Sao Paulo and California, which has brought the importance of achieving urban water security to the fore,' says Sameh Wahba, Global Director for the World Bank's Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice.

Many World Bank initiatives and projects are already contributing to the achievement of circular and resilient urban water systems, and the WICER approach provides a comprehensive framework. It also builds on and complements ongoing initiatives of the World Bank, such as Utility of the Future, Citywide Inclusive Sanitation and Policies, Institutions and Regulations and is a core component of the 'Water Secure Cities Initiative,' launched jointly by the Urban and Water Global Practices.

The WICER report also highlights the role of the water sector towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through, for example, energy efficiency measures and self-generation of renewable energy. The report shows that applying circular economy and resilient principles in urban water contributes towards the achievement of several SDGs and is also in line with the climate agenda. To avoid being locked into linear and inefficient systems, low- and middle-income countries can leapfrog and apply the WICER framework to design and implement circular and resilient water systems from the outset. The WICER initiative demonstrates that this is not only important from an environmental and climate point of view, but also as an instrument to achieve financial sustainability.

The report is part of a global initiative with the same name, Water in Circular Economy and Resilience (WICER), which will continue to support countries to embrace circular economy and resilience principles and ensure that cities are water secure.

The report Water in Circular Economy and Resilience (WICER) was funded by the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP).