Groundwater quality is an important component of overall freshwater quality worldwide. The quality affects the lives and livelihoods of the majority of people globally. High-quality groundwater is important for drinking water supplies, irrigation and industrial processes. Ecosystems and the environment, in general, also depend on an adequate quality of groundwater. Conversely, unsuitable or impaired groundwater quality can restrict economic development opportunities.
Groundwater quality is a major component of the UN Environment-coordinated World Water Quality Assessment. Mandated through the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolution “Addressing water pollution to protect and restore water-related ecosystems” (UNEP/EA.3/Res.10), UN Environment invited international institutions and stakeholders to the 2nd Global Workshop of the World Water Quality Alliance, held on September 16-18, 2019, at the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy. The participants at the workshop formulated plans for a number of activities to accelerate progress toward the World Water Quality Assessment, focusing on rivers, lakes, freshwater ecosystems and groundwater. Progress was reported on three already commissioned Swiss-funded ‘Use Cases’ in Africa on Lake Victoria, the Volta Basin and Cape Town in order to kick-start the global assessment. The cases are coordinated by Umvoto with contributions from partners in the respective regions and with a specific focus on groundwater quality.
Among the participants at the workshop were a number of institutions that are particularly concerned with groundwater quality issues at the international level, here called the Friends of Groundwater, including the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), and Umvoto. Based on a joint presentation from the Friends of Groundwater and a breakout group on the groundwater topic, a work plan for groundwater quality was proposed. The work plan envisages the development of a white paper addressing global groundwater quality challenges. Future priority activities were also highlighted.
UN Environment and donor agencies attending the meeting welcomed the work plan and previous efforts by the partners. The group hopes to develop broad support for addressing groundwater quality challenges globally going forward and has welcomed new partners to join the open network, including United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), Trinity College Dublin, University of Florida, and colleagues from the World Bank.
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