One of the greatest challenges facing wastewater treatment in the coming years will be the removal of trace substances such as pharmaceutical residues, antibiotics from animal breeding, and chemicals that exhibit hormone-like effects even in minute quantities. Microplastics and multi-resistant pathogens also need to be increasingly targeted.
The wastewater treatment plants of the future will also focus on optimized material cycles. This includes the recycling of nutrients. In Germany, for example, the Sewage Sludge Ordinance, which was revised in 2017, provides for phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge from 2029 onwards. Nitrogen, calcium, potassium, and magnesium are other chemical elements that ideally should not be lost.
Climate change is also a concern for sewage treatment plants. More frequent heavy rainfall events and long dry periods, for example, make proper plant operation an even more complex task. But even long before wastewater reaches the sewage treatment plant, cities and communities must find practical ways to deal with excess water and water shortages. Important keywords here are stormwater management and sponge city concepts. The goal of the corresponding measures and solutions is to retain as much rainwater as possible so that it can then be used to supply soils and vegetation, prevent heat, and maintain a livable environment.