World Water Quality Alliance launched to tackle global water crisis

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission launched the World Water Quality Alliance (WWQA) in Ispra, Italy, last week.
An estimated 80% of wastewater globally is released directly into water bodies without treatment. ©Ilga – Adobe zoom

The Alliance will provide governments and other stakeholders with relevant evidence-based assessment, scenarios, solutions and services on water quality issues. Globally, an estimated 80% of wastewater is released directly into water bodies without treatment.

With growing concern about the worsening global freshwater crisis, UN agencies, research institutions and space agencies last week launched the World Water Quality Alliance, which brings together a wide range of expertise in the fields of water quality science, technology innovation, governance and diplomacy to seek solutions. The Alliance will comprise more than 50 organisations; the diverse background of the partners ensures that the work of the Alliance will be useful for a wide spectrum of 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. "To effectively tackle the challenges facing our freshwater resources, we need a thorough understanding of the issues at hand. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre is well placed to contribute to this task, as it creates, brings together and helps policymakers make sense of knowledge from all sectors, across national boundaries and disciplines. As the European Commission, we are proud to join and support the global effort to resolve the water crisis", said Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries added: "The creation of the World Water Quality Alliance is the latest example of the strong environmental partnership between the UN and the EU.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission have formed this alliance to help turn the growing concern about the worsening global freshwater crisis into action. Action such as the one triggered in the EU by our Urban Waste Water Directive, which was highly successful in reducing pollutants in water". 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% 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. 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 operationalisation.

About the UN Environment Programme
The UN Environment Programme is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.