With growing concern about the worsening global freshwater crisis, UN agencies, research institutions and space agencies this week launched the World Water Quality Alliance, which brings together a wide range of expertise in fields of water quality science, technology innovation, governance and diplomacy to seek solutions.
The Alliance will comprise more than 50 organizations; the diverse background of the partners ensures that the work of the Alliance will be useful for a wide spectrum stakeholders.
At the third UN Environment Assembly, countries adopted a comprehensive resolution to address water pollution to protect and restore water-related ecosystems. Among other things, the resolution calls for better data collection, water monitoring and technologies to recycle and reuse wastewater.
“I am so pleased that UNEP has been able to catalyse the creation of the World Water Quality Alliance which brings diverse disciplines together to translate science on water quality into action. I cannot highlight enough the importance of the task at hand: because improving water quality is central to environmental sustainability and to ensuring healthy ecosystems, healthy people and a healthy planet,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.
Clean water is essential for nature and humans alike. However, surface and groundwaters are subject to enormous pressures - estimates indicate that up to one-third of all rivers in developing countries may already be affected by severe pollution and high salinity levels.
“Water is where we experience in the most direct way the impact of climate change on our way of life. The European Green Deal aims to ensure a secure future for the generations to come. There can be no doubt that it must put the global water challenge at the core of our work. It is therefore an honour to act as a bridge that facilitates collaboration between scientific disciplines and shortens the distance between scientific knowledge and political action," said Giovanni de Santi, the Joint Research Centre's Director for Sustainable Resources.
An estimated 80 per cent of wastewater is released directly into water bodies without treatment. The poor quality of surface water bodies in lakes and rivers, the primary sources of drinking water for millions of people around the world, leads to diarrheal diseases, which are among of the leading causes of death and disease worldwide. In the developing world, upstream pollution may trigger reductions of up to 30-40 per cent in annual GDP growth downstream.
The Alliance will provide a baseline assessment of global water quality and will build on this with a continuous overview of global water quality and its drivers. Secondly, the Alliance will also develop evidence-based products to inform improved global, regional and local water management. It aims to work with partners on the ground, facilitating a bottom-up approach to co-designing and developing products for mid to long term use and operationalization.