Thursday, September 29, 2011

No. 86: Water business in Japan and the world (5) (September 30, 2011)

Sewage system in Japan
The sewage system in Japan is divided into two operations. One is governed by Sewerage Act, and the other is not governed by this act. The former is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and for the business in the urban area. The latter is the business in agricultural communities and sparsely populated areas, and governing agency varies with the characteristics of facilities. Three ministries of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and the Ministry of the Environment are intricately involved.

In the sewage system, public burden is used for the treatment of rainwater, and usage charges are used for the treatment of sewage. In 2008, however, usage charges covered only 80% of the sewage treatment cost, and the remaining 20% is covered by public burden. Amid the financial difficulty of the central government and local governments, it will grow harder to increase the share of public fund. The sewage business, however, needs an increasing amount of capital to renovate and upgrade the existing sewage treatment facilities. According to the Ministry of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, there were 4,100 collapses of road because of the old conduit lines in 2008, and the number of collapses is increasing year by year. In addition, 19 million people are still uncovered by the sewage system, and the sewage business has a huge debt of about 32 trillion yen. It is necessary to foster the collaboration between the public and private sectors to improve the existing sewage infrastructure.

Under these difficult circumstances, new approaches are ongoing for the effective utilization of sewage resources. In the sewage business, heat and lots of organic substances are generated in the treatment process. For example, sewage sludge can be reused as fuel, and it contains useful resources like rare metals. In addition, treated sewage can be reused for flushing toilets and water spraying on the road. The reuse of treated sewage now attracts wide attention as a measure for a low-carbon and recycling-oriented society. (To be continued)

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