Groundwater quality is an important component of overall freshwater quality worldwide. The quality affects the lives, livelihoods and individual development opportunities of around at least 3 billion people globally consuming groundwater. High quality groundwater is important for drinking water supply, irrigation and industrial processes. Ecosystems and the environment in general also depend on an adequate quality of groundwater. Furthermore, unsuitable or impaired groundwater quality can restrict economic development opportunities.
World Water Quality Alliance
Groundwater quality is a major cornerstone of the UN Environment-coordinated World Water Quality Assessment (WWQA). Mandated through the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolution “Addressing water pollution to protect and restore water-related ecosystems”, UN Environment invited international institutions and stakeholders to the 2nd Global Workshop of the World Water Quality Alliance (WWQA), held 16-18 September 2019 at the EU Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy. The participants at the global 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 also reported on three Swiss-funded “Use Cases” in Africa for kicking off the global assessment for Lake Victoria, the Volta Basin and Cape Town. These are coordinated by Umvoto Africa with contributions from partners in the respective regions, including some specific components on groundwater quality.
Friends of Groundwater
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”), and IGRAC is one of those organisations. The other partner ofganisations are:
- International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH)
- Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany
- Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
- Umvoto Africa
Based on a presentation from the “Friends of Groundwater” and a breakout group on the groundwater topic, a draft work plan for groundwater quality was proposed. The work plan envisages the development of a short white paper addressing global groundwater quality challenges and some further activities, which would be dependent on any additional future funding opportunities.
UN Environment and donor agencies attending the meeting welcomed the consolidated efforts and suggestions from the “Friends of Groundwater”. This group hopes to develop broad support for addressing groundwater quality challenges globally and has welcomed new partners to their open network, including UNESCO IHP, Trinity College Dublin, University of Florida and colleagues from the World Bank.