Ocean Sewage Alliance

The Challenge: It is estimated that 80% of human waste is discharged into the environment untreated every year. In developed coastal areas, sewage is often the most wide-spread pollutant, and it’s known to contain hundreds of different compounds, including excess nutrients, pathogens, endocrine disrupters, suspended solids, sediments, heavy metals, and other toxins. Sewage pollution is bad for any coastal ecosystem, but some of the most obvious effects can be seen in areas with coral reefs, where the extra nutrients spur algae and seaweed growth, which choke out the reefs. When reefs die, fish populations suffer, which in turn hurts fishing and can also impact tourism. And yet, sewage pollution is rarely addressed as an environmental problem.

What can be done:  Human health watchdogs such as the World Health Organization are well aware of how poorly managing and dumping human waste leads to toxic algal blooms that are deadly to people as well as outbreaks of cholera, hepatitis, infectious viruses and gastroenteritis. They’ve been working for decades to improve water, sanitation and hygiene solutions in this sector that are meant to keep people from getting sick, such as by increasing hand washing or using chlorine tablets. These methods help prevent illness in people but don’t do anything to address the root causes of the polluted water. Similarly, most environmental legislation, such as laws that create Marine Protected Areas, are designed to keep people from taking too much from the ocean, not to protect from what people put into it.

How Ocean Sewage Alliance is meeting the challenge: Ocean Sewage Alliance is a diverse collective of organizations and academic partners committed to reducing the threat of ocean wastewater pollution and increasing the health and wellbeing of both humans and nature.  Through cross-sector collaboration, synthesis and sharing of knowledge, developing solutions and raising awareness of the problem Ocean Sewage Alliance will:

  • Build an evidenced-based case to drive action and support decision-making to reduce wastewater pollution
  • Create a united voice that supports action
  • Serve a knowledge and learning hub to support successful implementation of solutions
  • Expand the donor network and funding to support evidenced based actions that reduce ocean wastewater pollution.

The Ocean Sewage Alliance will promote cross sector collaboration and make it easier for a diverse set of practitioners to become fluent in the problem of ocean sewage pollution and learn how to best engage with others who are interested in tackling the problem.

This project aligns with the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good health and well being
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Life below water
About the Sustainable Development Goals
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