There are millions of small wastewater treatment plants (i.e. those dealing with wastewater flows below 200 m 3 /d or serving less than 2000p.e.) worldwide. For the local water environments it is crucial that these plants are designed and operated optimally. This is the motivation of IAWA's Specialist Group on Design and Operation of Small Wastewater Treatment Plants and the conferences it has run. Small treatment plants do not receive as much attention as the larger ones simply because they influence the environment on a small scale. They are, however, no less important to those who rely upon them. Such systems must be easy to operate and meet the strictest standards. In some cases nature-based, low-technology systems such as infiltration systems, reed beds and algal ponds are the most appropriate; in other cases more sophisticated technologies are needed. Prejudices in favour of either low- or high-technology systems are unhelpful. Both types are needed and they should be well enough understood to ensure that the system chosen in any case is genuinely the most appropriate one. The selected papers in this issue cover a wide range of systems and applications.
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