Clearing the Waters: A Focus on Water Quality Solutions


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Publication Title

Clearing the Waters: A Focus on Water Quality Solutions

Publication Type


UNEP and The Pacific Institute

Publication Date

March 2010


Publication URL


United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Division of Environmental Policy Implementation
P.O. Box 30552
00100 Nairobi, Kenya
Tel.: +254 20 762 3753
Fax: +254 20 762 4249



The challenge of water in the 21st century is one of both quantity and quality. This publication is about the quality dimension of that equation, highlighting the links between clean water and public health and the health of the wider environment. The fact is that, often as a result of mismanagement, much of the water that is available in developing but also developed economies is polluted and contaminated to varying levels. In some places that contamination – whether from sources such as industrial or raw sewage discharges – is so acute that it can be deadly, triggering water-related diseases that take millions of lives annually often among the young and the vulnerable. Contaminated river systems, coastal waters and other ecosystems are not only a health risk, they are also a risk to livelihoods and economies if they can no longer, for example, support healthy fisheries.

The purpose of this report, Clearing the Waters, is to refocus the attention of the international community on the critical role that freshwater quality plays in meeting human, environmental, and development commitments, including those of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is to also underline the inordinate opportunities for addressing water quality issues through improved management of this most precious of precious resources.

Part of a comprehensive response includes educating and engaging both the public and policymakers and enlisting the scientific community in order to make the links between the wider economy, human activity and water quality. This report is designed to provide a road map for engaging the international and national communities, in order to catalyze change. 2010 comes five years after the launch of the new decade for action and five years before the international community promised to meet the MDGs. Framing a response to the challenge of water quality, internationally and nationally, will be key to whether we can claim success in 2015 across many if not all of those poverty related goals.

This report is launched as a contribution to the MDGs but also to the wider sustainability challenges facing six billion people, rising to nine billion by 2050 whose future will be largely defined by how we manage the natural and naturebased resources of the planet.

Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme


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