China has achieved significant progress on wastewater treatment and aquatic environmental protection. However, leakage (in- and exfiltration) of sewer systems is still an issue. By using the statistical data of water and wastewater in 2016 in China, and the person loads (PLs) of water and wastewater in Singapore, the leakage fractions of hydraulic flow, organic carbon (COD), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) mass loading, and in-sewer COD biological removal in the sewer systems of China (except Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing were reported for the first time. The fractions of hydraulic flow infiltration (13%, Shanghai and Guangzhou) and exfiltration (39%, China) were calculated. Except Beijing, whose sewer networks are under appropriate management with small leakage fractions, the exfiltration fractions of COD (including in-sewer biological COD removal) ranged from 41% (Shanghai) to 66% (China) and averaged 55%; N ranged from 18% (Shanghai) to 48% (China) and averaged 33%; and P ranged from 23% (Shanghai and Guangzhou) to 44% (China) and averaged 30%. The exfiltrated sewage, COD, N and P not only wastes resources, but also contaminates the aquatic environment (especially groundwater) and contributes to ‘black and odorous water bodies’. In- and exfiltration in the sewer network leads to low influent COD concentration, C/N ratio and high inorganic solids and inert particulate COD concentrations of many municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) causing high cost for nutrient removal, poor resource recovery, additional reactor/settler volume requirement and other operational problems. Therefore, tackling sewer leakage is of primary importance to today's environment in China. Recommendations for the inspection of sewer systems and the rehabilitation of damaged sewers as well as the development of design and operation guidelines of municipal WWTPs tailored to the specific local sewage characteristics and other conditions are proposed.

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