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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering >> 2019, Volume 13, Issue 6 doi: 10.1007/s11783-019-1172-x

Municipal wastewater treatment in China: Development history and future perspectives

1. Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
2. School of Environment and Nature Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
3. School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
4. Administrative Centre for China’s Agenda 21, Ministry of Science and Technology, Beijing 100038, China
5. CAS Key Laboratory of Urban Pollutant Conversion, University of Science & Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China
6. School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing 212013, China
7. North China Municipal Engineering Design & Research Institute, Tianjin 300074, China
8. School of Environment and Civil Engineering, Jiangnan University, Wuxi 214122, China
9. Jiangsu (Yixing) Institute of Environmental Industry, Yixing 214200, China
10. Expert Committee for China’s Concept WWTPs, Beijing 100044, China

Available online: 2019-11-22

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• The history of China’s municipal wastewater management is revisited. • The remaining challenges in wastewater sector in China are identified. • New concept municipal wastewater treatment plants are highlighted. • An integrated plant of energy, water and fertilizer recovery is envisaged. China has the world’s largest and still growing wastewater sector and water market, thus its future development will have profound influence on the world. The high-speed development of China’s wastewater sector over the past 40 years has forged its global leading treatment capacity and innovation ability. However, many problems were left behind, including underdeveloped sewers and sludge disposal facilities, low sustainability of the treatment processes, questionable wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent discharge standards, and lacking global thinking on harmonious development between wastewater management, human society and the nature. Addressing these challenges calls for fundamental changes in target design, policy and technologies. In this mini-review, we revisit the development history of China’s municipal wastewater management and identify the remaining challenges. Also, we highlight the future needs of sustainable development and exploring China’s own wastewater management path, and outlook the future from several aspects including targets of wastewater management, policies and technologies, especially the new concept WWTP. Furthermore, we envisage the establishment of new-generation WWTPs with the vision of turning WWTP from a site of pollutant removal into a plant of energy, water and fertilizer recovery and an integrated part urban ecology in China.

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