A Comparative Study on Rapid Wastewater Treatment Response to Refugee Crises

Heta Kosonen, Amy Kim, Heidi Gough, Anna Mikola, Riku Vahala

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Large-scale population displacement can overwhelm wastewater treatment facilities and increase environmental pollution in the host communities. Academic research has discussed features that improve wastewater treatment systems’ resiliency toward other types of disasters and rapidly changing operation conditions. Concepts that contribute to successful startup, refurbishment, and operation of biological treatment systems during refugee responses are yet to be identified. This study takes a novel approach to analyzing wastewater treatment system resiliency by presenting an input–mediator–output model analysis on advanced wastewater treatment delivery during refugee response in Jordan and Finland in 2015–2016. By comparing two distinctively different case studies, the research identifies principles that contribute to timely refugee response in advanced wastewater treatment systems on the dimensions of human resources, project environment, and wastewater treatment technology. These principles include 1) clear role division between agencies and stakeholders, 2) improving “human capacity” for rapid response decisions, 3) selecting a process that fits the regulative and operational environment, 4) enabling direct and fast information sharing, and 5) establishing fast-track permitting processes for disaster conditions. Wastewater treatment system operators, regulative authorities, and aid organizations can use these findings to support rapid decision-making in future disaster response situations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1800039
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Challenges - An Innovative Journal for Tackling Humanity's Global Challenges
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biological wastewater treatment
  • disaster response
  • project delivery
  • refugee crises
  • WWTS operation


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