Basic sanitation

Four out of every ten municipalities in the country lack sewage disposal services

Section: Social Statistics | Umberlandia Cabral | Design: Brisa Gil e Helena Pontes

July 22, 2020 10h00 AM | Last Updated: July 23, 2020 05h05 PM

  • At a glance

  • Cerca de 39,7% dos municípios brasileiros não tinham serviço de esgotamento sanitário; no Norte, somente 16,2% dos municípios contavam com esse serviço.
  • Apenas em 11 das 27 unidades da federação, mais da metade dos municípios possuíam rede coletora de esgoto.
  • Eram 34,1 milhões de domicílios sem serviço de esgotamento sanitário no país, sendo 13,6 milhões no Nordeste.
  • O serviço era prestado por empresas privadas em somente 3,1% dos municípios.
  • 62,8% dos municípios brasileiros trataram o esgoto.
  • Em 63,9% dos municípios que coletam esgoto havia cobrança pelo serviço.
  • 61,6% dos municípios com esgotamento sanitário tinham fiscalização para implantação de sistema em loteamentos novos.
  • Apenas 16,7% dos municípios informaram que tinham rede na área urbana e rural (toda ou em parte).
  • Os dados são de 2017 e fazem parte da Pesquisa Nacional de Saneamento Básico e do Suplemento de Saneamento da Pesquisa de Informações Básicas Municipais.
Sewage disposal services are present in only 16.2% of the northern municipalities - Photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

About 39.7% of the Brazilian municipalities do not have sewage disposal services, according to the National Survey of Basic Sanitation, released today (22) by the IBGE. The study also indicates that these services are unevenly distributed among the Brazilian Major Regions. Whereas in the Southeast, more than 90% of the municipalities had that service since 1989, in the North that proportion was of only 16.2% in 2017.

The coverage of sewage disposal services more than doubled in almost thirty years in the Northeast Region, having changed from 26.1%, in 1989, to 52.7%, in 2017. The Central West Region also recorded advance: there was an increase in the municipalities with sewage disposal from 12.9% to 43%. “We can see from the time series there was an advance in sewage disposal, but it is still incipient. For the country overall in 1989, 47.3% of the municipalities had the service and by 2017 only 60.3% had reached that level," says Fernanda Malta, manager of the PNSB.

“When we say that that the municipality has the service, we mean it has at least one service rendering agency for sewage disposal. That does not mean all the housing units have the service when it is available in the municipality. There may be one agency available without univeralization of the service,” Ms. Malta explains. 

More than half of the municipalities have a sewage collection network in only 11 of the 27 Federation Units, with the extreme figures recorded by São Paulo (100%) and Maranhão (6,5%).

A total 34.1 million housing units in Brazil lack sewage disposal services in Brazil, a total 49.9%. The data comes from a crossing of information from the Continuous National Household Sample Survey (Pnad Contínua). In the Northeast Region alone a total 13.6 million housing units had the service, representing 74.6% of the total in the Major Region.

Only 62.8% of the Brazilian housing units treated sewage effluent in 2017

Sewage treatment in Brazil also recorded advances between 2008 and 2017. Even so, only 62.8% of the Brazilian municipalities treated sewage in 2017. The Central West (94.4%) and South (71.7%) had the biggest percentages of municipalities with a Sewage Treatment Station (ETE) in operation. The North Region, with 51.2%, had the lowest.

As for volume, only 67% of the sewage generatd is collected by means of a general system. That includes sewer from housing units and of a closed pipe, transported to the ETE or final place commercial and business establishments by means of a closed pipe, being taken to the ETE of final place for discharge, without proper treatment. From the volume of sewer collected by the general system, 77.1% are treated in ETEs.

Fernanda Malta highlights the importance of sewage treatment for the health of the population. "The WHO says that for each dollar invested in sanitation you save more than three in health costs.

So proper sewage, that is, if there is treatment, collection and the final destination of sewage, that will have an effect on the health and qualityof life of the populaion. Many students indicate that if a person lives in a place with proper sanitation, they will have better quality of living, better conditions to study and a better health.”

The study shows that sewage disposal is present mainly in the cities with biggest populations. The same is true for treatment, and the differences are significant. The municipalities with smaller populations, with up to 20 thousand residents, were below the national average (62.8%) and the biggest percentages were found in the municipalities with more than 500 thousand residents (97.6%).

Sewage services are performed by public entities in most municipalities

In 2017, sewage disposal was most often under the responsibility of public entities. City governments were the main executors in most of the cities (46.2%). Nevertheless, that figure has fallen over the years, with the increase of participation of State Companies (41.6%) and of municipal authorities, commonly named Autonomous Water and Sewarage Services (SAAEs), working in 11% of the cities. The service was rendered by private companies in only 4.1% of the municipalities.

63.9% of the municipalities charge for sewage disposal services

A total 63.9% of the municipalities with sewage disposal charge for the service. The Central West Region was the one recording the biggest percentage of municipalities charging for that (88.2%), and the Northeast Region, the lowest (39.9%). In the states of Amazonas (12.5%), Paraíba (12.2%) and Sergipe (18.2%), these percentages were the lowest. Amapá was the only state where all the municipalities charged for the service.

In the states of Amazonas (12.5%), Paraíba (12.2%) and Sergipe (18.2%), those were the lowest percentages. Amapá was the only state where all the municipalities chraged for the service.

From the total municipalities that charge for sewage disposal services, 67.8% offered subsidies (exemption or discounts), according to the characteristics of the housing unit and earnings or the enrollment in social programs from the government. Water consumption was adopted to subsidize the charge for sewage disposal in 36.1%.