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Wastewater Treatment in Sweden

We have compiled the answers to a number of frequently asked questions about wastewater governance, particularly small-scale (onsite) wastewater treatment systems, in Sweden.

These questions have been compiled from emails and phone calls received from abroad. Please contact us if we haven't answered your particular question.

General Info

  • What is this agency's role?

    We are responsible for the supervisory guidance of small-scale wastewater treatment systems, in other words systems for up to 200 persons. Our guidance is aimed at authorities dealing with supervision and supervisory guidance.

    We do not decide how other authorities are to act in individual cases. We also do not provide advice to property owners as to which wastewater treatment solution they should choose. Property owners who are dissatisfied with a municipal decision are to appeal to the county administrative board.

    The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency advises county administrative boards, municipalities, and plant operators on sewage sludge and treatment facilities designed for more than 200 people.

  • How are water and wastewater governed in Sweden?

    The publication Wastwater treatment in Sweden, published by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, gives an overview of the subject.

    The Swedish Environmental Code sets the environmental standards for the country. 

    The provisioning of water and wastewater is regulated by the Public Water Supply and Wastewater Systems Act (SFS 2006:412)

    Councils must supply water and sewerage for villages, defined as 20 to 30 households.

    The SWaM's general recommendations for small-scale wastewater treatment systems (HVMFS 20016:17) provide guidance for municipal authorities regarding the enforcement of environmental and health safety safeguard requirements for small-scale systems.

  • How many properties in Sweden have small-scale wastewater treatment systems? 

    Approximately 1,000,000. A small-scale system is defined as serving up to 200 persons.

Oversight

  • Who oversees small-scale wastewater treatment systems?

    The local municipality is in charge. It is up to each municipality as to how it prioritizes this supervision given that some municipalities have sufficient resources while others do not.

  • Who conducts the supervision of small-scale wastewater treatment systems and how often?

    Supervision is conducted on a continual basis by inspectors at the municipal level, partly through register reviewal and partly through on-site visits.

  • What are the standards for a small-scale wastewater treatment system?

    Sweden follows European Standard EN 12566-3 along with the additional parameter of nitrogen.

Inadequate Systems

  • What is the rate at which inadequate wastewater treatment systems are renovated?

    Today, only 1 to 2 percent of inadequate systems are remedied each year. This rate needs to increase to 5 percent to sustainably address this problem.

  • What methods of enforcement are used to encourage property owners to comply?

    Municipalities use injunctions and prohibitions to encourage property owners to upgrade inefficient systems, but if the owners do not take action, they risk having to pay fines.

Installing a New System

  • How does a property owner gain permission to install a small-scale wastewater treatment system in Sweden?

    The property owner needs to apply for a permit. The application process requires a variety of information such as a site plan showing property boundaries and access roads for sludge-removal vehicles and details regarding the system’s resource management.

    The application requirements can vary from municipality to municipality.

    The full list of application requirements (in Swedish) is located on page 81 of our handbookPDF on general recommendations for small-scale wastewater treatment.

  • Who reviews the application process and inspects the installation?

    The local municipality is responsible for reviewing applications, approving them, and ensuring that the installation is in compliance with regulations.

Drinking Water

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Published: 2015-07-28

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