Water Quality Project


IWRA has a long history of working on the issue of water quality, a key thematic area in its Strategic Priorities & Actions for 2016-2018.


Why focus on Water Quality?

Water quality is a crucial consideration for efficient water resources management. Improving water quality management is seen as essential for a more balanced and multidimensional approach to the research, policy-making, governance, operations and management of water resources.  In order to improve water security, water quality management must improve.  This is particularly evident in situations where water quality degradation or inappropriate use of water qualities is responsible for reducing the necessary quantity of water available for various uses.  Similarly, socio-economic improvement is dependent on access to sufficient water of appropriate quality for its various development paths.

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation remains a significant challenge, whilst other sectors including ecosystems, industry, energy and agriculture are also experiencing increasing pressure. Thus, it is increasingly important to use available resources more intelligently, make the most of the massive potential for wastewater reuse, and balance the water quality requirements between different uses.  Our current state of knowledge regarding global water quality remains poor.  Existing water quality data is urgently lacking, but is essential for the global water community to better identify specific problems as well as potential solutions.

Water Quality is also one of the main challenges to achieving the global agenda as outlined by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Launched in January 2016, the SDGs highlight the importance that water holds with its own Goal 6 to: ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’ and a sole target for water quality:

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6.3  By 2030, improve 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.

Therefore, the development of a global water quality assessment framework as well as access to timely and reliable data is urgently needed to support decision-making and management processes at a local, national and international level. Due to its diverse and complex nature, a holistic approach among different sectors and stakeholders is required to improve water quality.  Management frameworks must be flexible and adaptive to account for these changing parameters in order to devise water quality policies in a more integrated and sustainable way.


Global Compendium on Water Quality Guidelines for Different Uses

Following the 6th World Water Forum in 2012, IWRA was selected to develop a Global Reference of Water Quality Guidelines for different uses.  The Association’s main goal is to continue this work by presenting various perspectives, experiences, and tools that will promote the smart use of water for different end-users so that water quality dimensions are incorporated into water resource planning and management.  The general objective of the “Global Compendium on Water Quality for Different Uses” is to contribute to ensuring the adequate global availability of water resources with appropriate quality in accordance to the different uses.

Specific Objectives

IWRA was the Thematic Champion for Theme 3.3 “Ensuring Water Quality from Ridge to Reef” in the Implementation Roadmap set out for the 7th World Water Forum in Daegu & Gyeongbuk, Republic of Korea in 2015, and continues as the topic lead for water quality under the Ecosystems Theme for the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil, in 2018. IWRA, therefore, has supported the coordination of monitoring and reporting around the 5 goals below from the 7th Forum, and specifically worked on the delivery of goal 3.3.a.

  • 3.3.a – Using water smarter to contribute to the water security
    This focus area aimed to develop a global reference on Water Quality for the different uses (domestic, agriculture, industry, energy, and ecosystems) with guidelines on different scales (national, regional, and international), presented with multi-disciplinary perspectives (technical, economic, institutional, legal, social, and environmental). IWRA sets specific activities to promote the smarter use of water through the provision of expert networks and tools. The network comprised a working group of experts overseeing the development of the main tool, a Compendium on Water Quality Guidelines for Different Uses.
  • 3.3.b – Monitoring and Reporting of Water Quality
    This area of focus provided understanding and access to Water-Quality-data by utilizing the power of mobile phones. Being that the number of mobile phones will soon exceed the world’s total population, it has never before been easier to collect, analyse, and present data to support decision-makers in problem-solving water initiatives. This focus area strived to achieve this by up scaling water quality monitoring and reporting through mobile phones.
  • 3.3.c – Strengthening Frameworks for Governing and Managing Water Quality
    This area of focus developed and used existing cooperation mechanisms and frameworks in addition to strengthening frameworks for the effective governance and management of water quality.
  • 3.3.d – Sustainable Wastewater Management and Reuse
  • This area of focus aimed to gather and make available good wastewater treatment technologies, support policies and financial instruments, and showcase how these can be incorporated within an integrated wastewater management approach by analysing case study lessons.
  • 3.3.e – Managing sources for coastal and marine water quality improvements
    This area of focus made use of the Action Platform on Source to Sea Management to undertake a stock take on source-to-sea (ridge-to-reef) management to determine the aspects in need of increased attention considering past lessons, identify how the international community can be mobilized and contribute.

Call for Panellists – Water Quality (WQ) Task Force


IWRA is glad to announce the launch of its Water Quality Task Force, with an open call for panellists.  IWRA is presently seeking experts from around the world to join its WQ Task Force, to make a meaningful contribution to the quality of the water resources through the WQ Project with strong support of the World Water CouncilThe WQ Task Force will be made up of selected IWRA members, supported by its Executive Board and Secretariat.  Panellists will have the opportunity to:

  1. Contribute to a compendium on global water quality guidelines.  Panellists will help to review and finalise the report entitled “Global Compendium on Water Quality Guidelines for Different Uses: Which Water Quality for Which Use?”, to be published in 2018.
  2. Help scope the development of future projects related to water quality.
  3. Interact and create meaningful networks and relationships with other IWRA members, as well as to contribute to projects and initiatives that otherwise would be inaccessible for individual professionals in the field.

As recognition of these contributions by the panel, IWRA will feature a short personal profile of each selected and active panellist on its website, as well as referencing panellists in the Compendium.

For more information and specific details of the Water Quality Task Force, please access the Terms of Reference by clicking here.

We ask all interested applicants to submit a short 2-page CV and a 1-page covering letter stating why they wish to join and how their expertise would assist the task force to office@iwra.orgno later than December 1, 2017. Female applicants are especially encouraged.



The Road to the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia

With this background and expertise in water quality, IWRA continues to act as the Topic Lead through the Implementation Roadmap to the 8th World Water Forum to be held between March 18 and 23, 2018, in Brasilia, Brazil. In Brasilia, “Ensuring Water Quality from Ridge to Reef” has become a Topic under the Theme of “Ecosystems – Water Quality, Ecosystem Livelihoods and Biodiversity”.

A key milestone on the road to the 8th World Water Forum was indeed IWRA’s XVI World Water Congress (29 May – 3 June 2017) in Cancun, Mexico. One of the Congress’s main themes focused on “Water Quality, Wastewater and Reuse” (including implementation of SDG 6.3 with links to SDG 14.1), tackling water quality and pollution management – “from ridge to reef”, contaminants of emerging concern, water technologies and the circular economy – reduce, remove, reuse. Moreover, it collaborated with the S2S Platform that gathers approximately 25 organisations hosting a dedicated Special Session (SS 62) – Towards SDG Implementation – Ensuring Water Quality from Source to Sea. This successful session, focused on managing seawater and freshwater jointly, not separately, a crucial issue that brought together international actors working on the governance and management of water quality both from oceans and freshwater sources. As a result, this event raised awareness within the water community, including lawyers and policymakers, in order to suggest a new framework when approaching water pollution.

The host of the 8th World Water Forum, the World Water Council (established through the Cairo Declaration during a special session at IWRA’s VII World Water Congress), is supporting the IWRA’s work in response to increasing concerns on global water challenges and priorities, including water quality. The latter, is also highly relevant as a cross-cutting issue among other SDGs, equally relevant for the Theme 3.3. These include for instance, understanding that water quality from “ridge to reef” includes interaction between “green investment” in water basins and the blue economy of oceans, sea and marine resources (SDG 14), as well as the importance of water quality to protect, restore and promote freshwater ecosystems and wetlands (SDG 15).