The IIWQ serves as an umbrella programme for UNESCO-IHP activities on water quality, addressing three thematic areas aligned with IHP strategies and priorities.
Water quality issues are addressed with an overall aim to developing efficient and effective approaches to safeguarding water quality for human well-being, environmental integrity and socioeconomic development, focusing on:
- Safe drinking water and sanitation
- Water quality management
- Wastewater management and reuse
These thematic areas contribute to global efforts on:
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a prerequisite for poverty eradication, education, gender equality, reduction of child mortality, improved maternal health, combating against water‐borne diseases and achieving environmental sustainability. These issues are inherently intertwined with water quality, as this crucial resource can also be a vehicle for diseases and its lack of access brings additional burden on socioeconomic inequalities. Consequently, the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation and access to safe drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.
Water quality degradation translates directly into environmental, social and economic problems. Water pollution has an impact on biological diversity of aquatic ecosystems, on which livelihoods of millions of people and a wide range of sectors from urban development to food production and industry rely on. Improving water quality is, therefore, a prerequisite for the improvement of human health and well-being, reducing poverty, ensuring food security and maintaining ecosystems in structure and in function.
Today, water resources pollution poses major problems, putting more pressure on available water resources to meet human uses and maintaining natural ecosystems. Inversely, reduced water quantity results in immediate changes in the state, functions and integrity of water resources and aquatic ecosystems, affecting water quality as well as economic, social and cultural activities. Hence, integrated management of quality and quantity of water resources needs to be addressed for economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of the vital ecosystems.
Responding to future water quality challengesIn the coming years and decades, the most serious water challenges threatening the quality of the world’s water resources will strongly relate to new and emerging pollutants, fast developing urban societies, expanding economies, changing climate patterns, and linkages of the water-energy-food nexus. More coordinated and comprehensive action and efforts are therefore required to help secure safe and sufficient water supplies for people and ecosystems, which are at a risk of being potentially overdrawn or tainted with increasing pollution sources in the near future.