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. 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.
Theme 3: Addressing water scarcity and quality
This theme focuses on the protection of the world’s freshwater resources to reduce the impact on human well-being and the natural environment, protect water resources, prevent and reduce pollution, and enhance and restore water quality.
The objectives of the Theme include: strengthening the knowledge base on the quality of the world’s water resources; improving the understanding and management of water quality; integrating quality-quantity management and science-based decision-making; enhancing legal, policy and institutional frameworks for improved water quality management; and promoting new innovative tools for water quality management and pollution control. Activities under this Theme also focus on the promotion of innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to protect the quality of water resources and address specific water quality issues, such as the improvement of scientific knowledge on emerging pollutants, promotion of scientific innovation and advanced technologies – for instance, nanotechnologies for water quality, and improved wastewater management and safe reuse. The objects of the Theme are achieved through a wide range of activities implemented under two focal areas:
IHP-VIII activities on water quality are implemented under the umbrella of the UNESCO-IHP International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ).
Focal Area 3.4: Addressing water quality and pollution issues within an IWRM framework –improving legal, policy, institutional and human capacity
This Focal Area aims at improving the understanding, knowledge and institutional and regulatory frameworks on water quality for the sustainable use of water resources. Effective water quality management in the context of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) requires an enabling environment in the form of policy, legal and institutional frameworks such as instituting pollution licensing and enforcement of systems for sustainability in doer to address water quality pollution issues. The Focal Area also prioritizes strengthening human and institutional capacities to improve water quality management and pollution control.
In particular, the Focal Area aims to:
- Improve the understanding and knowledge base on the quality of water resources for human well-being and ecosystems.
- Promote state-of-the-art scientific, technological and policy solutions so support science-based decision-making and establish management priorities for improving water quality and preventing, reducing and controlling water pollution
- Promote integrated water quality-quantity management through approaches such as safe wastewater reuse and ‘fit-for-purpose’ water quality management.
- Enhance legal, policy and institutional frameworks for water quality management by improving water pollution licensing and enforcement systems for sustainability, including water quality regulations, guidelines and standards, and promoting their implementation, enforcement and compliance.
- Build institutional and human capacities in water quality management and water pollution control through strengthening scientific and technical cooperation among countries.
Within the framework of the implementation of IHP-VIII Focal Area 3.4, IHP organized expert meetings and scientific conferences to strengthen the knowledge base and promote collaboration on water quality issues:
- UNESCO International Symposium on Scientific, Technological and Policy Innovations for Improved Water Quality Monitoring in the SDGs Framework (Kyoto, 2015)
- Seven Thematic Sessions on Enough Safe Water for All (Theme 1.1) and six Science and Technology Sessions on Resource Recovery from Water and Wastewater Management (Main Focus 2) at the 7th World Water Forum (Korea, 2015)
- UNESCO Technical Sessions on Wastewater Management and Water Quality at the Fifth Africa Water Week (Senegal, 2014)
This Focal Area aims to develop and promote new innovative tools for water quality management and pollution control for sustainable livelihoods as well as promoting joint research on particular water quality issues and challenges through an integrated water pollution management framework. Meeting water quality challenges in holistic way requires an integrated water pollution control framework to respond to complex issues, including pollution prevention a source, lack of authority to enforce and difficulty of monitoring.
Hence this Focal area aims to:
- Develop and promote innovative tools for water quality management and pollution control.
- Promote scientific cooperation and joint research on specific water quality issues and challenges such as improved understanding and scientific knowledge on new and emerging pollutants, water quality monitoring, risk assessment and regulations, and pollution control and attenuation.
- Promote integrated water pollution management through prevention, reduction and restoration of polluted water, improved wastewater management and effective management of impacts of land-use changes.
- Disseminate scientific knowledge and share research finding, facilitate the exchange of best practices and successful experiences in reducing pollution and restoring water quality.