August 26, 2015 by David Taylor


The series “Issues in Environmental Science and Technology”, edited by Ron Hester and Roy Harrison has now reached its 40th volume and the editors decided, at my suggestion, that it might be interesting to review progress in environmental management over the last 40 or so years since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment took place in Stockholm in 1972.

I have written a chapter for this issue which looks at the disposal of liquid effluents. It is entitled – From ‘‘Dilute and Disperse’’ to ‘‘Recycle & Reuse’’ – Changes in Attitude and Practice of Effluent Management.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the time of the first UN Conference on the Human Environment, most of the major rivers in the developed world were in a parlous state with their natural purification capacity far exceeded by the volume of effluents that they were receiving from industrial and domestic discharges. Since then there have been radical changes both in environmental governance and our understanding of the issues. During the last 40 years many of the problems of the 1970’s caused by effluent discharges have been resolved and a dramatic improvement in the aquatic environment has occurred. However, both incremental advances and step changes in scientific knowledge will continue to create new challenges for effluent management in the decades to come.