United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper


                WATER QUALITY - A GLOBAL CONCERN
         RICHARD HELMER, EDWIN D. ONGLEY, NORMAN E. PETERS
                          WHO - GENEVA


                          INTRODUCTION

1.   The present paper deals with actions needed to protect the health
and productivity of the environment, and impacts on human health from
degradation of water resources. The paper commences by presenting an
overview of water quality issues (Section A).  Priorities and challenges
are then examined (Sections B and C respectively).  Finally, a global
water quality initiative, including an action plan, is proposed (Section
D).


A.   OVERVIEW OF WATER QUALITY ISSUES

2.   Human health and economic development are threatened or restricted
by multiple water quality issues that limit human welfare and water uses,
including microbiological pollution, organic pollution, salinization,
acidification, metal pollution, pollution by toxic organic compounds,
nitrate pollution, radionuclide pollution, thermal pollution, and
increases in total suspended solids. In addition to these issues, which
are all related to human activities such as agriculture and related land
uses, urbanization, industrialization, mining, land-use change, and
climate change, there also are some natural water quality issues which
may occur at specific sites and may cause severe limits to human
development in the form of water-related diseases, such as cholera,
malaria, and parasites, and excesses of harmful substances, such as
fluoride, arsenic, metals, and salts.

3.   The health of the aquatic environment also is greatly affected by
all human activities listed above and by the world-wide modification of
surface-water networks by damming, water diversion and withdrawals that
modify the physical component of the aquatic ecosystems and its water
discharge regime. The amount of pristine waters is very rapidly
decreasing and when considering long-range atmospheric pollutants which
now reach the polar regions and the Amazon basin, it can be said that,
strictly speaking, pristine waters no longer exist. Near-pristine waters
are restricted to where human activities are still very limited, i.e.,
in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, in a few tropical forests, and in some
arid areas. The temperate zone is the most severely affected area,
particularly in the Northern Hemisphere between latitudes 35oN and 50oN
where near-pristine waters only occur in small basins, in biosphere
reserves and national parks.

4.   At the very early stages of economic development, human development
was greatly limited by water-related diseases that are mostly controlled
by hydrology, i.e., the management of still and running waters, and by
climate. The worst conditions probably are found in the humid tropics and
associated wetlands, although a very severe disease, river blindness or
onchocerciasis, is typical of fast-running streams where the insect-host
of the parasite lives. In the early 1900's, malaria was still a major
factor controlling human settlement in extended regions in Europe. DDT
use, now banned in Europe and replaced by more environmental-friendly
pesticides, has nearly eradicated this disease in Europe. However,
malaria is still among the number-one health issues on the planet,
together with other water-related diseases such as bacterial diarrhoea,
onchocerciasis and schistosomiasis (Bilharzia), a parasitism linked to
an aquatic snail that typically develops in shallow still waters, as
around lakes and reservoirs. Bilharzia is a typical example of a human-
enhanced natural health issue which has developed with reservoir
construction e.g., Lake Nasser in Egypt.

5.   Water quality problems arising from natural conditions occur in many
continents and are linked to local characteristics of a humid climate.
In most arid regions, surface and groundwater are more mineralized than
in humid areas and may exceed the drinking water health standards. In
certain geological settings, where evaporites (halite, gypsum) and other
easily soluble minerals such as fluoro-apatite or arsenic-bearing
minerals occur, concentrations of fluoride, arsenic and other substances
may well exceed the WHO drinking water limits. In these regions, such
waters may be the primary or sole water resource that causes massive
degradation of population health.

6.   Primary causes of water quality degradation by human activities can
be grouped into six different categories according to the major factors
controlling these issues: population density, changes in water balance,
land-use indicators, long-range transboundary atmospheric transport of
pollutants and concentrated pollutant sources and global climate change.
The first cause, in human history, and still the most important one, is
the development of populations and particularly of cities; where there
is a concentration of direct pollution sources of pathogens, oxygen
consuming organic matter, nutrients, metals and organic micropollutants
to surface and/or groundwater. Moreover, cities also are responsible for
many of the long-range atmospheric pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and
nitrogen oxides causing acid rain and acidification, and some
micropollutants. In most cases, industrial activities also are linked to
urbanization.

7.   Land-use change through construction, deforestation and agriculture
and associated use of fertilizers, defoliants and agrochemicals has been
operating for more than two thousand years and still is very rapidly
expanding in the humid tropics (deforestation) and arid tropics
(desertification). Diffuse sources of material (pesticides, nitrate,
phosphorus, and suspended solids) also have affected the quality of
continental waters. Irrigation, which is the fastest growing water use,
will cause severe degradation of water quality through salinization of
surface water (irrigation returns) or groundwater. In most semi-arid and
arid regions, the use of water for agriculture is one of the most
important issues. Management failures with respect to salt, nutrients and
pesticides have been major causes of water quality degradation, and in
turn, the land and water management reflects the lack of adequate
scientific understanding.

8.   The quantitative management of water resources also is one of the
major causes of water quality degradation. Documented impact studies of
large schemes such as the Colorado River basin, Lake Nasser (created by
the Aswan dam) and the Aral Sea, have attracted more attention to this
issue. Reservoir building, water diversion for irrigation or for urban
supply, changes in water discharge regime or reservoir stratification
lead to drastic changes in water quality, sometimes connected to other
major causes of degradation as agriculture. Salinization, development of
water-related parasites, contamination of aquatic food webs by mercury,
increased erosion downstream of reservoirs, eutrophication and anoxia due
to reservoir stratification are now common.

9.   These water quantity changes are adding to water quality changes.
In some cases major rivers and lakes have already disappeared or are
severely affected. The Aral Sea is the most publicized example of such
change. The Colorado and Nile rivers, once two of the major world rivers,
are no longer discharging to the ocean; and the volume of Lake Sevan,
Armenia's key water resources, has been drastically reduced, causing
severe water quality degradation. Large reservoirs, e.g., Lake Nasser,
have recently been implicated in increasing local seismic activity, even
to the point of jeopardizing the dam's integrity.

10.  Some single pollution sources may affect wide areas due to the
amount, density or nature of their pollutant loads. These are referred
to herein as concentrated pollution sources or "pollution hot-spots" and
concern i) megacities, ii) major mining areas and iii) nuclear
facilities. For iii), chronic pollution usually is regulated and has a
local influence; but the Chernobyl accident has reminded the world about
the possible global contamination of water from such facilities through
long range atmospheric transport of radionuclides. Megacities are
increasing in both size and number. Only a few of these megacities are
actually properly connected to waste-treatment plants; but many of them
are located in rapidly-developing countries, e.g., China, India, Nigeria,
Egypt, Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil, where the sewer network and
treatment facilities are not growing as fast as the population. The
degradation of local water resources, both surface and groundwater,
forces some of these megacities to import water and/or expose much of the
population, which are not yet connected to tap water, to unsafe local
water.

11.  Major mining and smelting areas occur anywhere, e.g., in densely
populated regions or in remote places, such as the sub-Arctic regions of
Siberia and Canada, in Central Africa, and the island of New Guinea. When
these sites are located in such places, environmental regulations do not
exist or, if regulations do exist, they are not enforced adequately. The
result is that high concentrations and enormous loads of metals and salts
can be discharged, some being equivalent to loads coming from areas 1,000
or 100,000 times larger. Some industries also can be considered as hot-
spot polluters: a single fertilizer plant may discharge as much
phosphorus as 100,000 km2 of a forested basin.

12.  Global climate change probably is not the most critical issue for
water quality. It is much slower than most other global changes, such as
untreated pollution, the rates of water diversion and reservoir building,
and the increase in nutrient concentrations in rivers. However global
climate change will affect sensitive areas where some changes in the
water balance may greatly affect the water availability. Salinization
problems will increase in both arid regions and coastal zones where
seawater intrusion will affect the developed coastal aquifers.

Limits of water use due to poor water quality

13.  As discussed previously, the principal water quality issues usually
are related to multiple causes. As an example reservoir eutrophication
can originate from nutrient increase from various sources (urban,
industrial, agricultural, and from specific reservoir management).
Sources of major pollutants impacting continental waters include
atmospheric, point (e.g. sewage, industrial effluent), diffuse (e.g.
agriculture, dredging) and mixed (e.g. urban run-off, waste disposal)
sources.

14.  In turn, water quality degradation, or sometimes natural water
quality, will greatly limit specific uses. Each user has specific
requirements, such as optimum quality, health and other use thresholds,
and criteria for the frequency of threshold exceedance. Transport, power
generation and cooling are among the least demanding activities, whereas
drinking water, aquatic biota and fisheries are the most demanding.

Development of water quality issues

15.  The development of water quality issues depends on the stage of
economic development and on the countries water resources capacity and
willingness to recognize and face the issues. However, for long range
atmospheric pollutants and for climate change, as well as for nuclear
accidents, the issues may develop in countries that have achieved the
best environmental practices. A typical example is acid rain in
Scandinavia originating from other countries and associated surface-water
acidification.

16.  In industrialized countries, there generally is a chronological
succession of issues that have been encountered over the last 100 years,
such as faecal pollution, oxygen-consuming pollution, metal pollution,
eutrophication, and radioactive wastes. Most of these issues have been,
or can be, addressed. In the 1950's, nitrate pollution started due to
fertilizer use then not yet properly addressed. In the 1970's, acidic
atmospheric deposition led to extended regional problems in northeastern
USA, eastern Canada, Scandinavia, and central Europe. In some cases,
atmospheric pollution control is starting to produce positive results,
in that atmospheric acidifying components have been decreasing and
surface-water quality is improving.

17.  In the least developed countries, many of the above-mentioned issues
do not exist because of the lack of economic development. However the
related lack of sanitation leads to problems of pathogens and organic
pollution, and sometimes local groundwater contamination by nitrate still
is poorly understood.

18.  Rapidly-developing nations such as India, China, Brazil, and
Indonesia, are experiencing the development of all pollutant sources,
which are listed above for the industrialized countries, in a much
shorter period than in Western Europe or North America. The pollutant
production rates are increasing, sometimes an order of magnitude faster,
consistent with the population growth of some megacities. The combination
of multiple pollution issues, rapid changes in economic development and
rapid population growth will produce critical water quality issues in
many more areas of the globe than have heretofore been observed. However,
because of the lack of appropriate water quality surveys and health
statistics, not only is the severity of environmental degradation not
always documented, but processes causing the degradation are not well
understood.

19.  Eastern European countries are somewhat apart in that their
industrialization and intensive agriculture were achieved well before
1989, but the enforcement of environmental regulation generally was not
realized, leading to case studies of extreme pollution. When combining
these pollution issues with water quantity management, very poor quality
of surface and groundwaters is the result in many cases.


B.   PRIORITY CONCERNS

Healthy ecosystems maintenance

20.  Aquatic ecosystem health, while simple to understand in the
abstract, is difficult to assess or predict in meaningful terms and is
closely linked to water quality. The science behind ecosystem health is
difficult and not fully developed, and the political acceptance of a
meaningful implementation of the concept is difficult. Indeed, whereas
aquatic biodiversity is politically acceptable as a public good in
developed countries, such a concept is not generally implementable in
most developing countries where basic public health needs and economic
development are the priorities and where environmental needs are low on
the list of priorities. Nevertheless, it is recognized by some developing
countries that degraded (aquatic) ecosystem health, however that may be
defined, is causing systemic failure in economic planning and
development. How to deal with restoration of aquatic systems remains,
however, a scientific and policy dilemma for such countries.

Safeguarding drinking water supplies

21.  Water is vital for life. It is important in social welfare,
especially that of the poor. The poor pay the most for water and suffer
the greatest in terms of impaired health and lost economic opportunities.
Over one billion people lack access to adequate supply of safe water and
1.7 billion people do not have adequate sanitation. Contaminated water
causes millions of preventable deaths every year, especially among
children. Given the importance of this social interface, it must be asked
how effective water resources management can help to alleviate poverty
and ensure that the poor are the beneficiaries rather than the victims
of bad water management decisions and policies (Serageldin, 1995). 

Food security

22.  Even now the role of agriculture on water quality is substantial.
Although few countries are able to quantify the role of agriculture in
national water pollution, the United States is an example of a developed
country where agriculture is the major polluting source for surface and
ground water for a broad range of substances (US EPA, 1994). This is
typical of countries where point sources have been broadly regulated.
There has been widespread concern in Europe for several decades over
increases in nitrogen, phosphorus and pesticide residues in surface and
ground water.

23.  While there is no doubt that point sources of pollution are having
a major impact on water quality in developing countries the role of
agriculture and other types of non-point sources is not known and may be
substantial. The absence of reliable data makes the assessment of
agriculture relative to point sources difficult or impossible in such
countries. Moreover, the presence of large shallow lakes with large
internal loadings of phosphorus, especially in Asian countries, is a
major complicating and often overlooked factor when remediation projects
are planned.

24.  The debate over the freshwater scarcity issue is greatly complicated
by the global debate over the future of food security. Water used in
agriculture amounts to some 70 % of total water withdrawals; agriculture
is responsible for 93 % of total water consumed by all economic sectors
(United Nations, 1997). Nevertheless, the FAO (Alexandratos, 1995) has
provided a somewhat reassuring picture of the world's ability to produce
enough food to meet the demands of a growing global population. Others
such as Brown (1996) take a much more pessimistic view that reflects
observations such that with the world population increasing at some 90
million annually, large pressures will be exerted on water quantity and
quality by agriculture.

25.  The food security issue has the following water quality implications
(Ongley and Kandiah, 1998):
- Intensification of production both of rainfed and irrigation
  agriculture and of aquaculture will lead to increasing levels of
  fertilizer and pesticide runoff;
- Further expansion of rainfed agriculture into marginal lands that are
  highly susceptible to erosion will increase sediment runoff and
  freshwater turbidity and siltation;
- The need to rehabilitate salinized irrigation lands and to more
  effectively utilize salinized land will add to salinity loadings to
  aquatic systems;
- Intensification of livestock raising, especially in Asia, to meet
  increasing demand for protein will result in increasing loadings of
  faecal matter, organic and inorganic wastes;
- Expansion of the agro-food processing industry will increase loadings
  of organic matter pollution.

Integrated water management

26.  An integrated approach to management which needs to take into
account both water quality and quantity needs to be addressed. This
should consider that all types of water, freshwater, coastal and marine,
are considered in a management continuum and that land-based activities
are an integral part of this sustainable management approach. In order
to deal with pressures on water resources, a new approach to management
is necessary (Serageldin, 1995). This is discussed in more detail in
Section D of this paper.


C.   CHALLENGES

Policy and institutions

27.  Although there are many factors that contribute to the water quality
challenges world wide, including factors such as lack of funds, lack of
access to appropriate technologies, inadequate expertise at the national
and local levels etc., the fundamental root cause is institutional and
policy failure at national levels. Only when this is recognized and
accepted by national governments will there be the opportunity to make
significant change through the processes of financial and technical aid
and capacity building.

Data needs

28.  The challenge of the next decade is to rethink how water quality
data are collected and used, and to take advantage of new capabilities
that can revolutionize the information effectiveness and cost-
efficiencies of data and assessment programmes at the national level.
Water quality and quantity networks are failing to provide the kind of
information governments need to develop, implement and monitor water
policies and programmes. For water quality, these are highly inefficient
and ineffective, often are duplicated in two or more government agencies,
are expensive to operate, and fail to provide the kind of information
necessary to develop control options, or for investment into remediation
programmes. This applies to data collection, to data management and
deployment for decision purposes both for point and non-point source
management.

29.  Many developing countries are unable for institutional, financial
and technical reasons to mount stable, reliable monitoring and assessment
programmes. Water quality monitoring is often fragmented amongst several
government agencies: ministries of health, industry, transportation,
energy, agriculture, etc. In too many countries there has been a virtual
collapse of systematic data programmes for water quantity and quality.
In most developing countries and some developed countries there are no
national data standards to ensure data quality and it is assumed (usually
incorrectly) that legislated laboratory quality control as part of the
analytical process will suffice. Data unreliability, including
intentionally fraudulent data are all too common. There is a profound
lack of data, especially on man-made organic and inorganic compounds of
industrial and agricultural origin in most countries outside the
developed world. In many countries data holdings remain on paper records
only and are unavailable in electronic database format.

30.  In the case where information is available, the challenge becomes
one of how to make the information useable. Accessing knowledge and its
use in decision-making remains extremely difficult for developing
countries. Specific attention needs to be paid to new information
technologies that permit user-friendly use of knowledge bases (as well
as data) for decision-making for planning, development and issue-specific
management.

31.  For regional and global assessment purposes, the data challenge is
serious leading to an information gap dilemma. It has been impossible to
carry out comprehensive assessment of, for example, nutrient or
contaminant status in large parts of the world. The linkage with global
issues such as biodiversity or source-identification of toxic chemicals
that are transported long distances by atmospheric processes, cannot be
established. Consequently, effective solutions are difficult to derive.
Loadings of pollutants to oceans and coastal and inland seas from the
world's rivers are poorly known. For domestic purposes the data challenge
is verging on catastrophic for many countries. National governments and
river basin agencies do not have the data required to develop effective
policies for water resource planning, for pollution abatement and
remediation, for cost-effective source control, or for determination and
application of water quality standards for maintenance of ecosystems and
biodiversity. Sadly, many donors and international financial institutions
fail to recognise the inadequacies of national and regional monitoring
programmes.

Capacity building

32.  Most countries have need for the building of personnel and
institutional capacity in the methods of developing and applying water
quality programme elements to real water management issues. The need is
not for new science nor new methodologies; the need is for transfer of
existing knowledge and modern methodologies.

33.  A central area of capacity building in the water quality sector is
the fact that water quality management is a complex issue that involves
a wide range of needs, institutional, scientific and technical, and
programme requirements that must be considered. Most developing countries
are not well equipped to handle such complexity within an holistic
context. Often, basin remediation requires a set of trade-offs amongst
the various aquatic components and amongst users.

34.  Capacity building needs to focus on core competencies that do not
exist at the national level and that are essential for efficient and
effective planning and decision-making. There are many fundamental
problems with capacity building programmes in the water quality sector.
Too often these are a collection of short courses which donors are able
to provide, and which fail to take into account the question of
sustainability once the donor leaves. Problems may occur when capacity
building is associated with ■tied aid■. Frequently, this leads to
inappropriate technology transfer and infrastructure development. Another
aspect is the failure of many internationally funded programmes to build
appropriate capacity at local levels that can in turn, be used in similar
projects in the same country.

Raising awareness

35.  In order that water quality issues are brought to the fore, it is
important to raise political awareness. Although increasingly water
quality is recognized as a central issue in social and economic
development, many governments still believe water quantity to be the
issue of importance, not water quality. This is due to i) the political
and donor attention to water quantity in past years, ii) data on water
quantity being more accessible than water quality and iii) water scarcity
being more easily conceptualized at a national level than water quality.
The consequence is that national governments tend to be unaware of the
aggregate impacts and associated economic implications of water quality
deterioration at a national level. Furthermore, without the knowledge of
economic losses associated with degraded water quality in the various
economic sectors (e.g., agriculture, industry, public health), national
or regional governments have no basis to develop a cost effective
national or basin-wide remediation and investment strategy for water
quality (Ongley, 1997c).


D.   A WATER QUALITY INITIATIVE

Basic considerations

36.  In recent years water quality problems have attracted increasing
attention by authorities and communities throughout the world (see
Sections A and B), especially in the developing countries but also in
countries in transition from central planning economies to market
economies where previous neglect concerning environmental protection are
becoming a major obstacle for further and sustainable economic and social
development. The international community has acknowledged the severity
of the problems incurred by deteriorating water quality and agreed
formally to take action to protect the quality of freshwater resources.
The most recent demonstration of this was provided by the United Nations
Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, 1992, the
result of which was Agenda 21.

37.  The principles of Agenda 21 cover water resource management in
general. Water resources management entails two closely related elements:
maintenance and development of adequate quantities of water of adequate
quality. It is very important to notice this integrated relationship
between water resources management and water pollution control since past
failures to successfully implement water management schemes may be
attributed to negligence of this fact.

38. The present framework does not comprise water resources management
in general but concentrates on the aspects that relate to water quality,
with special emphasis on the conditions typically prevailing in
developing countries and countries in economic transition. The aim is to
demonstrate an approach to water quality management, focusing on a
process which will support an effective management of water pollution.
The suggested approach may be applied at various levels, from the
catchment or river basin level to the level of international cooperation.
The elements and processes involved in a framework for water quality
management are presented in Figure 1.

39.  The framework is based on discussions that took place at the 17th
and 18th sessions of the ACC Subcommittee on Water Resources in 1996 and
1997 (an inter-agency co-ordinating group comprising the organisations
of the United System dealing with water resources) and on ideas supported
by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). A
detailed account of the framework can be found in Helmer and Hespanhol
(1997) which is the result of the WSSCC Working Group on Water Pollution
Control.

40.  Since it is widely agreed that a properly developed policy framework
is a key element in sound management of water resources and since water
resource management comes under the direction of environmental
legislation, water resource planning and public health, any policy
statement must be clearly defined in proper policy documents. Some
general principles should be considered within the policy making process.
These are summarized by Larsen et al. (1997) for water pollution. A water
quality management policy should ideally be seen as a part of a coherent
policy framework ranging from overall statements (government statutes,
constitutions, etc.) to specific policy statements defined for
environment and water resources management as well as for particular
sector developments. The policy making process should therefore
incorporate consultations and seek consensus with all line ministries
relevant for water resources management including organisations
responsible for overall economic development policies, and when
formulating new development policies for other sectors, water resources
policy statements should be taken into account when relevant. Finally,
policy statements must be realistic and long-lived; they must be
applicable in practice and must pass a laborious political adaptation
process.

41.  Current policies are unsustainable, economically, socially or
environmentally and this stems from four principal failures (Serageldin,
1995): i) the refusal to treat water as an economic and social good; ii)
excessive reliance on government for water and wastewater services; iii)
fragmented management of water between sectors and institutions with
little regard for conflicts or complementarities between social, economic
and environmental objectives; iv) inadequate recognition of the health
and environmental concerns associated with current practices.

42.  A new approach for water management within a sustainable development
framework is necessary which:
- Addresses quantity and quality concerns through an integrated approach;
- Integrally links land use management with sustainable water management;
- Recognizes freshwater, coastal, and marine environments as a management
  continuum;
- Recognizes water as an economic and social good and promotes cost-
  effective interventions;
- Supports innovative and participatory approaches;
- Focuses on actions that improve the lives of people and the quality of
  their environment.

43.  A key element to this is the concept of a "management continuum".
All types of water, freshwater (surface and groundwater), coastal and
marine, must be included in a unified management approach as they are
inextricably linked; also there must be a broader recognition of
"downstream effects" from human activities. A key link with this is land-
based activities and their impact on water resources, and ultimately on
the coastal and marine environment (Serageldin, 1995).

Understanding water quality problems

44.  Land-water processes are intimately linked. A land management
decision is a water resource decision. The basic fact that water runs
downhill provides the most essential building block for evaluating
natural and human influences on hydrologic processes. Processes affecting
water quality and quantity must be understood along water pathways in the
landscape. Upstream impacts affect downstream users. The most natural
framework for this evaluation is the drainage basin. Evaluation of water
quality evolution along pathways throughout a basin provide information
on processes not only related to natural occurrence, transport and
transformation, but also human influences caused by land and water use
through alteration of the landscape, water abstraction, and waste
disposal. Given the continued and accelerated human intervention in
natural ecosystem functions, it is necessary to identify critically
important relations among factors effecting ecosystem degradation, and
most notably water quality degradation. The effects of human
interventions in the environment, primarily land and water management,
on changes in water quality are not well understood particularly as human
interventions also may have positive benefits in slowing and possibly
reversing degradation.

45.  Process understanding and associated monitoring and modelling are
the basis for policy and management decisions (Figure 2). Contrasting
water quality responses in similar climatic and hydrogeologic settings,
but with differing resource management actions will provide tools for
increasing management efficiency and improving the scientific basis for
resource management. Understanding important aspects of ecosystem
function and developing associated management strategies at a range of
temporal and spatial scales and for a range in biophysical conditions is
the goal of this project. Higher levels of understanding throughout the
range of conditions and scales (Figure 3) result in disproportionately
increased costs as the number of sites and individual studies needed to
address uncertainties and linkages increase. The basic framework is to
work across both temporal and spatial scales within drainage basins
representative of the types of conditions for major biophysical units.
Intensive investigations will provide transfer value on processes for
management and monitoring of other drainage basins in related units.

46.  Despite the growing development of water quality surveys, since the
1970's in many countries, and through the development of the GEMS/Water
programme in 1978, many questions remain unanswered. Many of these
questions are addressed at the local scale, i.e., from streams to small
rivers. The first set refers to the pollutant pathways and interactions
with the atmosphere, the biosphere, the soils and aquifers. In each of
these, transfer and reaction and other key controlling factors should be
identified, model parameters or constants should be measured or estimated
at a variety of temporal and spatial scales and for a range of
biophysical zones existing at the earth's surface. However, most of the
development of water quality science is still conducted in a few
characteristic environmental or biophysical zones, such as the humid
temperate zone. Process-level studies need to be evaluated for all
environmental conditions, particularly where water quality is already
affected or at risk.

47.  After process models are validated, they must be developed to
operate reliably on a larger basin scale, which means simplification of
structure, a change in parameterization and linkage to economic
information. Such models may still contain major process components, but
other components will temporarily be empirical algorithms linking a
constituent concentration or load with key environmental factors such as
water runoff, soil moisture content and economic indicators. Such models
may be used to fully simulate the water quality over a large basin, some
of them are just statistically distributed (e.g. by hydrological stream
order), or are fully geographically distributed at various resolutions.
In all cases, for rivers, lakes, and for groundwater, the water flow
models are a prerequisite to any water quality model, although some
empirical models may not need highly developed hydrodynamic models.

48.  Another limit of water quality knowledge at the subregional scale
is the spatial resolution of available economic statistics; i) these
statistics are known over administrative and political limits that do not
correspond with basin boundaries, and ii) the resolution is generally
very coarse and variable. The population distribution may be known at the
municipal level, but in most global reports it is given at the country
level. Pesticides and fertilizer use data generally are also given at the
country level, which is too coarse for many process models. Some
information, such as the major treatment plants, major point sources of
pollutants, and dams, should be known precisely.

49.  Remote sensing is a very important tool that may be used to fully
describe the landscape, e.g., relief, drainage network, soil type, and
vegetation, at various resolutions. However, except for a few variables
such as total suspended solids, chlorophyll, and temperature, and in only
some surface waters, remote sensing cannot give much information on water
quality. Concurrently, continuous measurements of water quality are still
very rare and costly, and also limited to a few variables. Water quality
information is, by nature, discontinuous in both time and space.

50.  At the global scale, there is a need for a full description of the
water quality issues. Existing global assessments are still mostly
qualitative and present many gaps in undocumented regions, as for most
of Africa. Mapping water quality issues at a global scale implies a
systematic regionalization based on biophysical provinces, and using some
of the available indicators, such as population density, gross national
product or energy consumption, and waste-water treatment rate.

51.  Because hydrologic and hydrochemical processes are linked in
biophysical regions, global water quality needs to be presented and
evaluated for biophysical/geophysical regions rather than political or
geographic regions. The current geo-political clustering of data often
masks important information related to cause and effect for biophysical
regions contained within the cluster. All major -pollution hot-spots■
should be inventoried and geo-referenced. Typologies linking
biogeographic features, economic production, and qualitative indicators,
such as enforced environmental policies and regulations, should be
established and mapped at the global scale. Geographic Information
Systems (GIS) are important tools at the regional to global levels. GIS
will enable the reconstruction of the past global evolution of water
quality provided that key indicators are also available, and the
prediction of future trends. Combination of multiple water quality issues
also should be considered, faced with the future trends of water quantity
demand at the global scale.

52.  The World Health Organization has published documents concerning the
rapid assessment of sources of air, water and land pollution for
quantification of pollution sources. The main aspects of these
publications are that they focus on the source inventory aspects of the
management process, provide control options and they introduce easy-to-
use water and air quality models. The Rapid Assessment procedure has been
found particularly useful in developing countries in the design of
environmental control strategies and policies using relatively modest
resources. The rapid assessment procedure is most useful in making an
initial appraisal of the sources and levels of emissions from an area
that has little or no previous pollution load data. It is also useful in
selecting priority areas to conduct more extensive monitoring surveys;
for conducting case studies as part of public health programmes directed
at pollution control; and for formulating pollution control policies and
regulations for national environmental health activities (Economopolous,
1998).

53.  In addition to action required to improve scientific understanding
of the processes in water bodies exposed to severe pollution loads, it
is important to consider actions for increased understanding of
wastewater minimization, re-use and recovery. In particular, it is
important to consider wastewater as a resource.

54.  In many arid and semi-arid regions, water has become a limiting
factor, particularly for agricultural and industrial development. Source
substitution appears to be the most suitable alternative to satisfy less
restrictive uses, allowing for the use of better quality water for
domestic supply. Whenever water resources are not fully available to
satisfy demand, reclamation and use of wastewater should be promoted for
urban, industrial, landscape/recreational purposes, and particularly for
irrigation of crops since it involves large volumes of water. Governments
should be prepared to establish and control the process within a broader
framework of a national effluent use policy, forming an integral part of
the national plan for water resources management. Lines of responsibility
and cost allocation principles should be worked out among the various
sectors involved. Health, legal and regulatory issues should be
conveniently addressed; socio-cultural as well as religious aspects
should be fully considered during the planning, implementation and
operational phases of reuse systems in order that the practice is
accepted by users and the public in general. 

Management tools and instruments

55.  Management tools are a necessary means to address identified
problems. These are numerous and include regulations, management
procedures and by-laws, water quality standards, economic instruments,
monitoring systems, water quality modelling tools and environmental
impact assessments and cross-sectoral coordination. Whatever management
tools are chosen, there must be a balance between the input of resources
against the severity of the problem and available resources and they must
ensure sustainability (Larsen and Ipsen, 1997).

56.  In terms of monitoring, the process of monitoring and assessment
should be seen as a sequence of related activities (Figure 4) that starts
with the definition of information needs and ends with the use of the
information product (UN/ECE, 1996). It is very important to have cost-
effective water quality monitoring networks which provide the necessary
data for decision making. Problems associated with data are discussed in
Section C.

57.  There has been a revolution in monitoring practices and
technologies, especially in the use of cheap screening tools. Agencies
need to learn how to design, modernize and implement data programmes so
that client needs are served. Modernization also includes the use of
modern laboratory methods and of alternative biological measures that are
appropriate for that country, multiple techniques within monitoring
programmes, data quality objectives, optimization of the national
network, information systems, quality control, quality assurance,
accreditation, good laboratory practice and reporting.

E.   ACTION PLAN FOR WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT

58.  The preceding sections have described various elements and aspects
of what could be considered as an action plan for water quality
management. Some elements are identical to elements from traditional
master plans, but contrary to prescriptive and rather rigid master plans
the action plan concept provides a flexible and dynamic framework for
development and management of water resources. It is very important to
recognize the dynamic nature of the action plan concept because a
significant value of the concept lies in its flexibility. The action plan
should be continuously monitored and adjusted in order to take account
of recent development trends. Only a flexible and non-prescriptive
approach will allow for such changes.

59.  One of the main results of the action plan is a list of actions
proposed for implementation in order to achieve the goal of effective and
sustainable water quality management. The actions can typically be
organized according to the following categories (Figure 1):
- Actions supporting development of an enabling environment, which is a
  framework of national legislation, regulations and local by-laws for
  encouraging sound management of water pollution and constraining
  potentially harmful practices;
- Actions supporting development of an institutional framework, which
  allows for close interaction between national, intermediate and local
  levels;
- Actions enhancing planning and prioritization capabilities that will
  enable decision makers to make choices between alternative actions
  based on agreed policies, available resources, environmental impacts
  and the social and economic consequences.

60.  Across all categories training and capacity development may be an
integrated element of the proposed actions. As well as skill-based
training related to developing assessment capabilities, in order to carry
out the functions described in the short term strategy, there may be a
need for various training, education and information activities at
various levels, such as orientation programmes, curriculum development
and extension training.

61.  In accordance with underlying principles of the government as an
enabler in a demand-driven approach and management at the lowest
appropriate levels, a structure is called for that facilitates
decentralization of management. National agencies should be concerned
with essential functions not to be dealt with at other levels, and should
act as enablers that review and revise the overall structure so that it
responds to current needs and priorities.

62.  The recommended framework should be one which attempts to strike a
balance between national and local levels in carrying out the identified
management functions previously outlined. The envisaged organizational
framework should as far as possible build on existing structures.

Action plan implementation

63.  Several UN programmes, commenced in the 1970's, are providing water
quality assessments, which clearly demonstrate that the quantity and
quality of water available for domestic, industrial and agricultural use
is now a strategically important global issue. A summary of major
programmes is given in Annex I. A recent UNEP report, entitled the Global
Environment Outlook, identified water quality as an issue of highest
priority for the management of the global environment (UNEP, 1997). The
UN agencies have been actively involved in data collection and analysis
for two decades, and all of their most recent assessments support these
rising concerns and the urgent need for action to address the global
water quality issue. The UN Programmes across its agencies that would be
essential collaborative links to this comprehensive global water quality
initiative are the Global Environment Monitoring System for water
(GEMS/Water), the Hydrology and Water Resources Programme (HWRP) of WMO,
the International Hydrology Programme (IHP) and the International Action
Programme on Water and Sustainable Agriculture Development (IAP-WASAD).
The water quality initiative proposed herein would build on activities
of other programmes, e.g., IHP and GEMS/Water, and would continue to
interface with them. However, this programme would expand the research
from data collection, compilation and statistical analysis of current
status and trends to scenario analysis and a compilation of robust
management strategies for the future within diagnostic basins. The
diagnostic basins, in turn, characterize specific climate/hydrological
conditions and associated human pressures and impacts.

64.  The proposed water quality programme should focus on understanding
the biophysical processes controlling quantity and quality of water
supply in these basins. This process knowledge, incorporated into simple,
robust, mathematical models, will allow basin behaviour to be simulated
and scenario analysis conducted to build understanding of impacts of
possible management strategies on the supply and quality of water. Figure
3 may help place in context what has been achieved in current UN global
monitoring and assessment programmes and how this initiative will be
built upon to provide the predictive tools, analysis capability and
understanding, essential to ensuring an adequate supply of quality water
for the global needs as sought by the Agenda 21 strategy.

65.  The GEMS/Water programme, which to date is the only international
programme strictly devoted to water quality, has significantly
contributed toward a global appreciation of the current water quality
status and trends by working with long-term fixed-station monitoring and
by providing some synthesis at the regional scale (levels B and C of
Figure 3). Statistical analysis has provided a generalized status for
geo-political regions and given a broad overview of trends. The IHP has
contributed, along with national efforts, to understanding the
hydrological and ecological processes that effect water quality as
represented by levels C and D in Figure 3. The efforts for process level
understanding under the IHP are limited, and full understanding or a
sequential approach through data collection and analysis was never within
its scope. Workshops and symposia, supported by the International
Association of Hydrological Sciences, among others, have contributed to
communication among scientists working on specific water quality topics.
What the proposal herein highlights is a more comprehensive generation
and application of quantitative process knowledge to the prediction of
water quality trends and scenarios than heretofore has been proposed.
Furthermore, the proposed programme will use an examination of the global
basins in terms of the basins representing particular climatic,
hydrogeologic and biophysical behaviour in response to a range of
anthropogenic stresses. The vulnerability of water resources to water
quality degradation as a consequence of a set of demands and stresses are
determined by the biophysical processes that operate in the particular
region. Each hydrogeologic region can be expected to respond differently
to anthropogenic stress and to require specific management strategies to
slow or reverse water quality degradation.

66.  The basins will not be analyzed in terms of national and geo-
political boundaries alone but will be treated as hydrogeological
entities subjected to a set of human demands. This approach, where the
work moves between level D and C of Figure 3, will provide predictive
capacity and robust management strategies, and therefore, increased -
capacity to deal with complex water management questions■ as sought by
the strategy arising from Agenda 21. The proposed programme will be
designed to ensure that data are appropriate for predictive process
models to be used to examine the impact of policy, the currently
available management options, and alternative scenarios. Expensive data
collection can be carefully targeted, costs reduced and emphasis given
to high quality, data collection, analysis and processing procedures.

Developmental considerations

67.  Interventions must move from curative to preventive. The costs of
inaction, mitigation and restoration are high. By changing management
approaches to preventive rather than curative, prevents expensive
problems from occurring and promotes the sustainable use of diverse and
fragile resources.

68.  Co-operation to avoid conflict by competing sectoral demands is
vital. Transboundary pollution and the diverse demands on water
availability are important causes of conflict. Efforts must therefore be
refocused on international cooperation for both water quality and
quantity issues.

69.  Incentive structures must be built into the management approach.
These incentives must encourage efficiency and reduce environmental
damage. Pollution prevention must be promoted by adoption of efficient
process technology, waste minimization, recycling and resource recovery
and high operation and maintenance standards. The ■Polluter Pays
Principle■ and the ■User Pays Principle■ should be actively promoted to
encourage polluters to adopt cost-effective measures.

70.  Environmental assessment should be conducted for all proposed
actions to provide a basis for integration of environmental concerns into
the project design process. They should evaluate all alternative actions.
They provide an effective means for establishing frameworks for
environmental mitigation and monitoring plans. They must integrate
resettlement plans and measures to conserve cultural heritage.

71.  Investment in human resources and training programmes is critical
for improving water management. The quality of long-term benefits from
any programme or project is fundamentally related to the institutional
capacity and human resources available for its implementation. Experience
must be drawn from scientists and engineers but also from administrators,
economists, financial managers and the social sciences.

72.  It is important that innovations must move from piloting to
mainstream. There must be a change in principles, practices and
technologies of water quality management programmes which will promote
and test pilot innovations and disseminate experiences to allow benefits
to be realized at an operational level.

73.  For successful planning and implementation of projects,
participatory approaches are recommended. Planning must occur at the
lowest appropriate level, be demand-based and representatives from all
sectors of society which will be affected must be involved.

Acknowledgments

     This paper has been assembled by WHO on behalf of the UN agencies
collaborating on water quality issues, particularly those organizations
co-sponsoring the global water quality monitoring programme GEMS/Water.
The paper is largely based on document ACC/SWR/1997/3, entitled -A
Comprehensive Global Water-Quality Initiative■, which was submitted by
UNESCO to the Eighteenth Session of the ACC Sub-committee on Water
Resources in Vienna, 1-3 October, 1997. The document ACC/SWR/1997/3 was
prepared by a Water-Quality Task Group at UNESCO, 7-11 July, 1997 with
the following membership: Drs N. E. Peters (Chairman), S. S. D. Foster,
T. C. Hazen, M. Meybeck, V. Tsirkunov, J. Williams, M. Bonell (UNESCO)
and W. Rast and G. Schneider (UNEP). 

     The strategic and specific inputs on water quality monitoring and
related subjects was provided by Dr E. D. Ongley, Director of the
WHO/UNEP GEMS/Water Collaborating Centre, Burlington, Canada. Text was
taken from background papers he had prepared for the ACC Sub-committee
meeting in Vienna, 1-3 October 1997. Water quality management aspects of
the paper are based on material prepared by Drs H. Larsen and
N. H. Ipsen, VKI Water Quality Institute, Copenhagen, for the Water
Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council Working Group on Water
Pollution Control and the resulting publication ■Water Pollution Control
- A guide to the use of water quality management principles■ (Helmer and
Hespanhol, 1997). Technical and language editing of the paper was by
Dr E. Baroudy of the Monitoring and Assessment Research Centre at King's
College London.

            FIGURE 1 - Elements and Processes of an Action Plan
                       for Water Quality Management

                       [ not available ]


        FIGURE 2 - Scheme for Management, Scientific Investigation and
                   Monitoring at aDrainage-Basin-Scale fgor Ecosystem Function

                       [ not available ]


           FIGURE 3 - A Framework for Investigating Water Quality

                       [ not available ]


                   FIGURE 4 - The Monitoring Cycle
                       [ not available ]


References

Alexandratos, N. (ed.) 1995. World Agriculture Towards 2010: An FAO
  Study. FAO, Rome.
Brown, L. R. 1996. Tough Choices: Facing the Challenge of Food Scarcity.
  The Worldwatch Environmental Alert Series, Norton & Company, New York.
Economopoulos, A. P. 1998. A Rapid Approach to Effective Environmental
  Management. Published on behalf of WHO, E. & F. N. Spon. (In press).
Helmer, R. and Hespanhol, I. (eds) 1997. Water Pollution Control. A Guide
  to the Use of Water Quality Management Principles. E. & F. N. Spon,
  London.
Larsen, H and Ipsen, N. H. 1997. Framework for Water Pollution Control.
  In: Helmer, R. and Hespanhol, I. (eds). Water Pollution Control. A
  Guide to the Use of Water Quality Management Principles. E. & F. N.
  Spon, London.
Larsen, H., Ipsen, N. H. and Ulmgren, L. 1997. Policy and Principles. In:
  Helmer, R. and Hespanhol, I. (eds). Water Pollution Control. A Guide
  to the Use of Water Quality Management Principles. E. & F. N. Spon,
  London.
Ongley, E. D. 1994. Global water pollution: challenges and opportunities.
  Proceedings 17. Integrated Measures to Overcome Barriers to Minimizing
  Harmful Fluxes from Land to Water. Publication No. 3, Stockholm Water
  Symposium, August 10-14, 1993.
Ongley, E. D. 1997a. Water quality: an emerging global crisis. Paper
  submitted to the United Nations ACC Sub-committee on Water Resources
  on behalf of the GEMS/Water Collaborating Centre, Burlington, Canada.
Ongley, E. D. 1997b. Water quality programme development. Paper submitted
  to the United Nations ACC Sub-committee on Water Resources on behalf
  of the GEMS/Water Collaborating Centre, Burlington, Canada.
Ongley, E. D. 1997c. The economics of water quality. Paper submitted to
  the United Nations ACC Sub-committee on Water Resources on behalf of
  the GEMS/Water Collaborating Centre, Burlington, Canada.
Ongley, E. D. and Kandiah, A. 1998. Managing water pollution from
  agriculture in a water scarce future. Proceedings of the 1997 Stockholm
  Water Symposium, August 11-14, 1997. (In press).
Serageldin, I. 1995. Strategic water resource management: Themes for a
  new millennium. Proceedings of the Fifth Stockholm Water Symposium,
  August 13-18, 1995.
United Nations, 1997. Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater
  Resources of the World. Report of the Secretary General. Commission on
  Sustainable Development, 5th Session, 7-25 April, 1997. Document E/CN.
  17/1997/9.
UN/ECE, 1996. Task Force on Monitoring and Assessment. Guidelines on
  Water Quality  Monitoring and Assessment of Transboundary Rivers.
UNEP, 1997. The Global Environmental Outlook. Oxford University Press,
  New York.
US EPA, 1994. National Water Quality Inventory. 1992 Report to Congress.
  EPA-841-R94-001, Office of Water, Washington DC.

Annex I

United Nations Agency Programmes Dealing With Water Quality Issues:
Collaborative Links Essential To A Global Water Quality Initiative


GEMS/Water

A joint UNEP/WHO programme on global water quality was initiated in 1978,
which promotes sustainable freshwater quality management. Its work
revolves around: 
- International cooperative data programme and monitoring;
- Data and information sharing;
- Global and regional assessments;
- Capacity building and technical cooperation;
- Advice to governments and international agencies;
- Information products;
- Partnerships.

The most recent statements (WHO/UNEP, 1991; UNEP, 1995) from the
GEMS/Water programme indicate that the emerging water pollution issues
are:
- Accidental pollution, wherein major industrial accidents result in
  large-scale contamination of a vital water body, will occur with
  increasing frequency;
- Land disposal of wastes and disposal of mine tailings. At present
  annual quantities of contaminants as heavy metals as a result of
  production and consumption are eight times greater than total new
  fluxes to oceans;
- Increased salinity and land degradation. Problems of salinity from dry
  land including irrigated agriculture and disposal of mine waste will
  continue to increase worldwide resulting in significantly increased
  land degradation and salt loads to freshwater resources;
- Water disinfection by-products. Contamination from halogenated organic
  compounds from chlorination in water supplies is an emerging issue.

GEMS/Water (Meybeck et al., 1989) provided the first global assessment
of water quality. The GEMS/Water assessments indicated that gaps in the
global monitoring programmes consisted of gaps in geographic coverage and
measurements of key parameters. The programme also recommended that heavy
metal and organic micropollution be included and that the lack of
monitoring African, Latin American and South-East Asian regions be
addressed. The assessment also recommended that work move beyond data
gathering, monitoring and statistical analysis toward a better
understanding of the basic biogeochemical process and interactions that
fundamentally determine water quality. The need for quantitative
modelling of catchment, stream and groundwater processes was seen as an
important step forward.

In the GEMS/Water report (WHO/UNEP, 1991) Water Quality, which was
published for the Dublin conference on Water, a Global Strategy for Water
Quality Management, was outlined. Central to this strategy was a focus
on water monitoring and problem assessment coupled to a research and
development programme. The programme gave priority to:
- Elimination of health risks from wastewater re-use in crop production;
- Use of water of marginal quality for irrigation or groundwater
  replenishment;
- Simplified procedures for water quality monitoring and assessment;
- Study of distribution pathways of inorganic and organic micro-
  pollutants, particularly agrochemicals in aquatic systems;
- Ecotoxicological studies of the long-term effects of harmful chemicals
  on aquatic biota;
- Development and applications of simplified mathematical models of water
  quality for management purposes.

Critical to these research and development objectives was the development
of institutional capability and the development of twinning and
networking of research centres to improve communication, coordination of
monitoring, data analysis, model evaluation and application to water
quality management.

During its nearly twenty years of operation the major achievements of
GEMS/Water are: 
- Establishment of a global network of dozens of national institutions
  dealing with water quality surveys in 40 countries from all continents
  including the former USSR, China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil -
  connected through regional meetings, training courses, the former Water
  Quality Bulletin, and the GEMS/Water Newsletter, both published at the
  National Water Institute in Burlington, Ontario;
- Establishment of the only existing global data base on water quality
  for rivers, lakes and groundwater, including millions of data points
  from about 250 designed stations. This data base is handled by
  Environment Canada at Burlington, Ontario, and is accessible through
  the Internet;
- Training of one hundred water quality engineers and managers from all
  continents in English, French, Arabic, Spanish and Russian. GEMS/Water
  Training packages to water quality survey and management are now
  available from several British Institutions; 
- Conducting analytical quality control (AQC) on certified samples sent
  to dozens of water quality laboratories in all continents. This global
  AQC programme has been managed by US EPA in Cincinnati;
- Editing of several books, manuals, and reports in the field of water
  quality assessment, and monitoring, at the regional scale (e.g., South
  East Asia and the former USSR) and at a global scale. The GEMS/Water
  monitoring manual is available in several languages, including English,
  Spanish, French and Russian.

Many countries, such as India, Malaysia, and Tanzania, developed their
national water quality networks in the early 1980's on the basis of the
GEMS/Water recommendations. However the overall activities of GEMS/Water,
such as training and publication of the Water Quality Bulletin, have been
dramatically reduced recently due to the lack of funds. Some of the major
deficiencies of the programme are: 
- Geographic gaps in data due to the inability to properly organize a
  satisfactory water quality monitoring programme in the least-developed
  countries, particularly in Africa, and to raise the monitoring level
  to the highest standards, particularly for micropollutants. Both of
  these require enormous specific funds that are lacking in the
  programme, and are better provided through bilateral funding and/or
  twinning. However, a specific programme on micropollutant analyses in
  deposited sediments, which primarily involves US and Canadian
  institutions, currently is being considered;
- Little effort was focused on the monitoring and assessment of
  groundwater and lakes/reservoirs and consequently, data for them are
  deficient in the GEMS data base;
- Many aspects of water quality, such as process studies, calibration and
  verification of water quality models for science and management,
  regulation and management, were not addressed in GEMS/Water.

The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) 

The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) set down the
detailed plan for 1996-2001 to include 8 themes which are relevant to the
issue of water quantity and water quality, namely:
- Global hydrological and geochemical processes;
- Eco-hydrological processes in the surface environment;
- Groundwater resources at risk;
- Strategies for water resources management in emergency and conflicting
  situations;
- Integrated water resources management in arid and semi-arid zones;
- Humid tropics hydrology and water management;
- Integrated urban water management;
- Transfer of knowledge, information and technology.

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro,
1992

An important step was taken at the UN Conference on Environment and
Development at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 when freshwater quality became
part of Agenda 21. Wherein it states that -the holistic management of
freshwater as a finite and vulnerable resource, and the integration of
sectoral water plans and programmes within the framework of national
economic and social policy, is of paramount importance for action in the
1990's and beyond. To this end, water resources have to be protected,
taking into account the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and the
perenniality of the resource, in order to satisfy and reconcile needs for
water in human activities.

United Nations Economic and Social Council, Commission on Sustainable
Development

In 1997, the WMO published on behalf of numerous UN and other
International agencies, a ■Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater
Resources of the World■. The actions and recommendations in this document
were presented to the General Secretary of the UN Economic & Social
Council, Commission on Sustainable Development. This document
recommended:
- Managing water quantity and quality together in an integrated and
  comprehensive manner;
- Building up need expertise on water issues, among water uses and
  decision-makers at all levels, thus increasing capacity to deal with
  complex water management issues;
- Enhancing national water resources assessment capabilities and
  measurement networks and establish water resource information systems
  that empower people to understand the options available for sustainable
  urban, industrial, domestic and agricultural development in combination
  with environmental conservation;
- Establishing within existing institutions, especially the UN system,
  a global water information network to compile information with
  particular emphasis on water quality, water quantity and water use. The
  institutions also should conduct regular global and regional water
  assessments. Water information programmes should be implemented at
  national and international level and should establish models to ensure
  compatibility between data of individual nations. The Commission on
  Sustainable Development should carry out periodic global freshwater
  assessments using existing networks of experts;
- Building international collaborative arrangements, such as:
     - Global Water Partnership
     - Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council
     - World Water Council;
- Strengthening collaboration with non-governmental organizations;
- Developing north-south academic partnerships to build research capacity
  on a broad range of water-related issues, including those of quantity
  and quality.

WMO's responsibilities within the UN system concentrate on the collection
and application of hydrological data, which concerns both surface water
and groundwater, and covers both the quality and quantity of freshwater.
These responsibilities are fulfilled by;

  -  providing guidance to countries through their National Hydrological
     Services on policies and techniques for monitoring water quality;
  -  assessing the current state of monitoring networks by country and
     globally;
  -  organizing technical meetings and publishing reports.

In this WMO collaborates with other international programmes, most
notably GEMS/Water.  It also works with other agencies to provide direct
technical support to countries, such as the series of regional components
which are being developed under the World Hydrological Cycle Observing
System (WHYCOS).  Each component includes the installation of
state-of-the-art stations for monitoring climatic, water quantity and
water quality parameters for compilation in real-time into regional and
national databases for use in operation and planning. Funding for these
projects has been provided by the World Bank, the European Union and
certain donor countries.


References

Meybeck, M., Chapman, D. and Helmer, R. (eds) 1989. Global Freshwater
  Quality - A First Assessment. Basil Blackwell.
UNEP, 1995. Water Quality of World River Basins. Nairobi, UNEP
  Environment Library, No. 14.
WHO/UNEP, 1991. Earthwatch - Global Environment Monitoring System ■Water
  Quality■. Progress in the Implementation of the Mar del Plata Action
  Plan and Strategy for the 1990■s.

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Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD