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Water and Innovation: The Key to Sanitation in Brazil

The sanitation problem

Brazil is a country rich in water resources, but lack of access, waste and contamination are major problems. According to the National Sanitation Information System – the SNIS –, until 2015, 35 million Brazilians did not have access to a water supply system through a distribution network and 100 million did not have a sewage collection service. In addition, almost 37% of all water in Brazil is lost in the distribution process.

The National Basic Sanitation Plan – Plansab – aims to universalize water supply in Brazil by 2023 and serve at least 93% of the population with a sewage network by 2033. Until then, investment, public policies and innovative projects are needed to achieve these goals.

Water and innovation

In November 2017, Brazil hosted the first local edition of the Water Innovation Lab (WIL), an initiative of the Canadian NGO Waterlution. The meeting brought together researchers and entrepreneurs to discuss and propose innovative solutions related to water conservation and reuse, recovery of springs and new accessible technologies.

Innovation is necessary and technology is a great ally of basic sanitation worldwide. Today, one of the most modern sewage treatment systems is called ASBR – Advanced Sequencing Batch Reactors –, a Canadian technology that treats sewage in a biological way. Instead of using chemicals, water treatment is done in the same way as nature does, ensuring that the treated affluent returns to nature free of organic pollutants.

Among other innovative systems in the sector, we can mention biofilters made from a coconut-based vegetable mixture that reduce odor in pumping and sewage treatment stations. In addition, a technology for microphones capable of identifying leaks in the water network has recently been developed.

Innovation is even more necessary in remote areas, where water treatment is scarcer and more difficult. To get around this problem, Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural and Cattle Raising Company) developed a biodigester septic tank that treats sewage and produces an effluent that can be used as fertilizer in the soil.

In addition to fertilizers, sewage can also provide energy from the treatment of biogas resulting from sewage treatment. It is estimated that it is possible to produce 1,500 Nm3 of biomethane per day, which is equivalent to 1,500 liters of regular gasoline.

What about you? Have you ever thought about solutions to the water problem? Get well informed with our glossary and test your knowledge in our Puzzles to learn more about the water cycle and its treatment processes.