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