Blue Economy in the Wider Caribbean Region

UN Environment Caribbean Wastewater

The Caribbean evokes images of white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, vibrant coral reefs, and abundant fish life. Untapped coastal and marine resources offer great potential for Caribbean Small Island Developing (SIDS) and mainland coastal countries to benefit from emerging Blue Economy opportunities.

In 1999, when the Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution (LBS) Protocol was adopted, untreated domestic wastewater was identified as the number one point-source of land-based pollution. Over 75-85% of sewage enters the Caribbean Sea untreated or only partially treated. This places vital economic sectors such as Tourism, Fisheries and Maritime Transportation at risk. If this pollution continues unabated, the economic potential from sustainable blue economies will be unrealized and environmental and human health risks will increase.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CREW) project (2011-2017), co-implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), provided support to 13 countries of the WCR in areas ranging from training to the development of innovative sustainable financing mechanisms and solutions for improving wastewater management.

  • LBS protocol being ratified by Jamaica, Costa Rica and Honduras;
  • Over 37,000 people (8,400 households) with access to improved wastewater treatment;
  • Reduction of 2,100 kg of BOD/day; 406 kg of nitrogen/day; 85 kg of phosphorus/day entering the environment;
  • 12 new wastewater treatment plants to be completed with co-financing from IDB;
  • National Wastewater Revolving Funds worth US $5m and US $3m respectively established in Belize and Guyana;
  • Credit Enhancement Facility worth US $3m established in Jamaica.

Journalists learn about wastewater treatment issues,
Georgetown, Guyana, 2013, CReW,

P.C. - Donna Spencer

GEF CReW PSC 3 Meeting participants,
Saint Lucia, 2014,
P.C. - GEF CReW Project

The use of economic valuation tools and analysis for the wastewater sector now provides additional justification of the need for expanding wastewater infrastructure and to help identify the most cost-effective management solutions.

Through the CReW, we improved awareness among the general public, media personnel, technical experts and politicians. Governments now have improved national policies, legislation and regulations for wastewater management. Most importantly, there is increased recognition that in order to maximize on blue economy opportunities, managing marine pollution especially caused by untreated sewage is a key priority.

New and strengthened partnerships between UN Environment and IDB, the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention, Caribbean Development Bank, water and wastewater utilities, wastewater associations, the media, academic and research institutes and communities formed a solid basis for future cooperation. To continue the journey towards operationalizing future cooperation and testing decentralized solutions to water and wastewater management in rural and peri-urban communities, the GEF, once again provided its support by approving the CReW+ project. This new phase of the project will develop strategies on how to maximize on opportunities for re-use of treated wastewater as a resource. It will also ensure that both urban and rural communities have access to centralized and decentralized solutions that are both appropriate and sustainable. And unlike in its first phase, this time there will be activities providing solutions in select watersheds and freshwater basins to ensure greater water security for vulnerable rural communities. The interventions in both these water systems will promote a Source to Sea approach and the proposed activities will increase the resilience of local communities to the impacts of droughts and, more generally, the impacts of climate change and climate variability in the water sector.

Building on its lessons learned and preparing to champion innovative measures in its fresh phase, the CReW family is well placed under all three emerging environmental topics – Blue economy, environmental security and it certainly tackles marine based pollution issues from source to sea. For more information, please visit contact the project at