Field visit to Germany’s biggest wastewater treatment plant

We are a partner of the German WASH network. The triad “WA-S-H” stands for water, sanitation and hygiene. Recently twenty German non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in emergency- and transitional aid, and in international development cooperation formed this network. Together we want to contribute towards solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st Century: globally 2.1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water and 4.5 billion have to live without safely managed sanitation. This is unacceptable!

Last week we joined our partners of the network in Hamburg for our second meeting. The event was organised by Hamburg Wasser, who also had set up a project visit to  Köhlbrandhöft wastewater treatment plant. It is the biggest plant in Germany, serving around 2.6 million people and also the only one to serve a whole city. It is highly modern, with more than 200 employees, and people working in shifts to keep it 24 hours constantly running. All other cities in Germany need several wastewater treatment plants to ensure access to clean and safe water.

We also strategised, together with the members of the network, around our participation in the World Water Week in Stockholm in August. For example, out network is organising several side events on topics such as nutrition, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), and menstrual hygiene management. Our organisation is co-organising a side event on equity in climate change adaptation on 25th of August.

Hydro-social cycle of water and sanitation

Until the 1990s, water management concepts drew heavily on the physical sciences. Water was generally thought of as a physical resource whose provision was determined, for the most part, by the hydrological cycle and physical infrastructure. However, there is growing understanding that a “hydro-social cycle” also exists. Access to and control over water, and its management and use, are shaped as much by social factors (including gendered power relations) as by physical ones, and every stage in the hydro-social cycle involves different demands, risks and benefits for women and men. The gendered dimensions of both the hydrological and hydro-social cycles will be disrupted by global climate change, in ways that are both predictable and unpredictable.⁠