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International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ)


International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ)

IIWQ Activities and Projects

UNESCO-IHP International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ) implements its activities and projects in an interdisciplinary, integrated and cooperative manner aiming to meet global water quality challenges while building sustainable, long-lasting responses. The wide spectrum of projects and activities under the IIWQ umbrella cover a large range of topics and themes focusing on the international, regional, national and local levels. Comprising all regions of the world, IIWQ activities encompass diverse freshwater systems and ecosystems as well as socio-economic, health and institutional issues. 
Past, present and future activities, as well as major flagship projects and specific areas of interest under IIWQ briefly include the following:
Emerging pollutants, with potential threats to human health and ecosystems, pose a new global water quality challenge today. The UNESCO Project on Emerging Pollutants in Water and Wastewater (2014-2018), funded by Sweden, is one of the main flagship activities under IIWQ, responding to address this threat and aiming to support UNESCO Member States to strengthen their scientific, technical and policy capacities to manage human health and environmental risks caused by emerging pollutants in water and wastewater. The strengthening of these capacities of Member States will help improve consequently their water quality and wastewater management, including safe reuse of wastewater, and enhance water and food security.
Monitoring water quality from Space through satellite Earth Observation
Water quality data are scarce and unsystematic at the basin, national and global levels. Water quality monitoring capacities are limited, particularly in developing countries. To respond to these challenges, IHP’s International Initiative on Water Quality organized UNESCO Symposium on “Scientific, Technological and Policy Innovations for Improved Water Quality Monitoring in the SDGs Framework” (Kyoto, Japan, 2015) to promote the state-of-the-art scientific knowledge, technologies and policy approaches to water quality and wastewater monitoring. 
Based on the symposium recommendations, the UNESCO World Water Quality Portal was conceptualized and developed in the framework of IHP’s International Initiative on Water Quality to showcase and demonstrate the potential of satellite Earth Observation to improve water quality monitoring and support sustainable water resources management. The portal aims to support basin organizations to better understand the water quality and ecological state of freshwater resources, monitor the trend and evolution of water quality and pollution, and assess anthropogenic and climate change impacts on water resources. It consequently contributes to science-based policy development and decision-making on water quality. It also promotes research and strengthens the knowledge base on innovative approaches to water quality monitoring. The Portal’s first operational application was developed for water quality monitoring of Lake Chad and its tributaries Chari-Logone. 
The crucial linkages between water quality and climate change is a new water quality challenge of growing concern, which is not often researched nor studied. To improve knowledge and develop adaptation policy responses on this issue, UNESCO-IHP’s IIWQ has started facilitating scientific and policy discussions to deal with climate change effects on the quality of world’s water resources. Two main events were organized on this topic: 
  • “Water and Climate Day” at COP 21 (Paris, 2015) 
  • UNESCO-IAHS Symposium on “Water Quality’s Trends and Expected Climate Change Impacts” during the XXV IUGG General Assembly (Australia, 2011). 
Under the overarching theme ‘Water security: Responses to local, regional and global challenges’, the IHP-VIII Strategic Plan emphasizes water quality issues as one of the main themes for UNESCO’s work on water during this 8-year period, designating IHP-VIII Theme 3 particularly as “Addressing Water Scarcity and Quality”. Two focal areas are specifically designed to achieve theme’s objectives on water quality: Focal area 3.4 - Addressing water quality and pollution issues within an IWRM framework and Focal area 3.5 - Promoting innovative tools for safety of water supplies and controlling pollution. This theme contributes further to the 2030 Agenda and SDG Target 6.3 as well as other SDG targets related to water quality and wastewater.
A renewed focus to water quality was given through the dedication for the first time of a specific thematic area in Seventh Phase of IHP – Focal Area 4.1 ‘Protecting water quality for sustainable livelihoods and poverty reduction’ under Theme 4 “Water and Life-Supporting Systems”. This focal area aimed to strengthen and develop the scientific knowledge base on the quality of surface and groundwater. It also contributed to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals by facilitating the sharing and exchange of effective solutions and best practices on access to safe water and sanitation. UNESCO carried out numerous activities to accomplish IHP-VII’s objectives, including multi-stakeholder international workshops, experts/ technical meetings and seminars, promotion of best practices on water quality complemented by extrabudgetary projects.
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