The bottlenecks and causes, and potential solutions for municipal sewage treatment in China

Yeshi Cao*, M. C.M. Van Loosdrecht, Glen T. Daigger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Since about the 1990s China has achieved remarkable progress in urban sanitation. The country has built very extensive infrastructure for wastewater treatment, with 94.5% treatment coverage in urban areas and legally mandated nation-wide full nutrient removal implemented. However, municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in China are still confronted with issues rooted in the unique sewage characteristics. This study compares energy recovery, cost of nutrient removal and sludge production between Chinese municipal WWTPs and those in countries with longer wastewater treatment traditions, and highlights the cause-effect relationships between Chinese sewage characteristics-high inorganic suspended solids (ISS) loads, and low COD and C/N ratio, and municipal WWTP process performance in China. Integrated design and operation guidelines for municipal WWTPs are imperative in relation to the unique sewage characteristics in China. Cost-effective measures and solutions are proposed in the paper, and the potential benefits of improving the sustainability of municipal WWTPs in China are estimated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-169
JournalWater Practice and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Energy recovery
  • Municipal wastewater treatment
  • Nutrient removal
  • Sludge production
  • Sustainability
  • Wastewater treatment in China


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