UNESCO-IHP Regional Consultation Meeting “Water Quality in Europe: Challenges and Best Practices”

When, local time: 
Tuesday, 1 December 2015 - 9:00am to Friday, 4 December 2015 - 6:00pm
Where: 
Germany, Koblenz
Type of Event: 
Category 7-Seminar and Workshop
Contact: 
Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa, Division of Water Sciences, s.zandaryaa(at)unesco.org

The UNESCO-IHP Regional Consultation Meeting “Water Quality in Europe: Challenges and Best Practices” took place in Koblenz (Germany) from 1 to 4 December 2015. The meeting was hosted by the German Federal Institute for Hydrology – International Centre on Water Resources and Global Change, under the auspices of UNESCO.

This event was organized by the International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ) in the framework of the implementation of Theme 3 “Addressing Water Scarcity and Quality” of the Eighth Phase of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP-VIII) of UNESCO.

Water quality degradation is one of the main global challenges having direct impacts on health, water resources availability and sustainability, food production, ecosystems, as well as economic growth. Thus, improving water quality worldwide has been recognized as a key for enhanced water security and achieving the newly-adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. In particular, under the Goal on water, Target 6.3 calls for “improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally”. Water quality issues are also highlighted in other Goals such as SDG 3 (Good health and well-being) and SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production) which emphasize the urgent need to combat water-borne diseases and significantly reduce the release of wastes and hazardous chemicals to air, water and soil to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

Whereas most European countries have access to drinking water of good quality, progress is still necessary in terms of improving wastewater treatment in some countries of the region and controlling nutrient pollution from farming activities to ensure clean water for ecosystems, as well as to tackle new water quality challenges such as emerging contaminants and safe water reuse.

The UNESCO-IHP meeting “Water Quality in Europe: Challenges and Best Practice” thus aimed to discuss water quality issues in the Pan-European region, including Western, Central and Eastern Europe, in order to:

1) Identify key issues and challenges related to water quality in the European context;
2) Promote and disseminate knowledge and scientific information as well as best practices on solving water quality problems by exchange on the state-of-the-art technological solutions and policy approaches;
3) Sharing of successful case studies and lessons learned from specific countries.

In particular, the meeting addressed a broad range of water quality issues relevant in the European context focusing on:

1) Water quality data and monitoring;
2) Water quality trends, modelling, general assessment;
3) Institutional and regulatory frameworks of water quality management;
4) Ecotoxicological assessment and health assessment;
5) Emerging pollutants: analysis, effects, occurrence and removal;
6) Advanced wastewater treatment of the 21st century;
7) Water reuse;
8) Dealing with water pollution from agriculture;
9) Economic and social aspects of water quality management.

The meeting thus served as a platform for discussing, promoting and disseminating state-of-the-art scientific knowledge, technological advances and policy approaches to address water quality challenges in the European region. The meeting also focused on practical case-studies and best practices on innovative approaches to improved water quality and wastewater management in different hydrological, environmental, socio-economic, and development contexts. A field trip finally concretized the theoretical applications of leading edge scientific and technological developments for water quality management improvement in a real world context.

Participants included water quality experts, researchers, water professionals and practitioners, public health and environmental specialists, and policy-makers.

Abstracts on the above-mentioned issues were published in an Abstracts Book prior to the meeting. Full papers of selected accepted contributions were published in a post-meeting technical publication by UNESCO and Federal Institute of Hydrology of Germany.

Dr. Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa, Programme Specialist on water quality in the Division of Water Sciences of UNESCO, and Dr. Philipp Saile from the International Centre on Water Resources and Global Change working under the auspices of UNESCO at the Federal Institute of Hydrology and Coordinator of the UNEP/GEMStat, Germany, were in charge of the organization of the meeting and can be contacted for information regarding the meeting.