Organised in public or private structures, wastewater services have to cope with different framework conditions as regards planning, construction, financing and operation. This leads quite often to different modes of management. In recent years there has been a push for privatisation on the water sector in general, the reasons for which are manifold, ranging from access to external know-how and capital to synergistic effects through integration of wastewater treatment into other tasks of similar or equal nature.
Discussed are various models of public/private partnership (PPP) in wastewater treatment, encompassing for example the delegation of partial tasks or even the proportional or entire transfer of ownership of treatment facilities to private third parties. Decisive for high performance and efficiency is not the legal or organisational form, but rather the clear and unmistakable definition of tasks which are to be assigned to the different parties, customers and all other partners involved, as well as of clear-cut interfaces. On account of the (of course legitimate) profit-oriented perspective of the private sector, some decisionmaking processes in relation to project implementation (design and construction) and to operational aspects will differ from those typically found on the public sector. This does apply to decisions on investments, financing and on technical solutions too. On the other hand, core competencies in wastewater treatment should not be outsourced, but remain the public bodies’ responsibility, even with ‘far-reaching’ privatisation models. Such core competencies are all efforts geared to sustainable wastewater treatment as lifesupporting provision for the future or as contribution to the protection of health and the environment and to the development of infrastructure. Major areas of wastewater treatment and other related tasks are reviewed. The paper concludes with a list of questions on the issue of outsourcing.