Sufficient water supply of appropriate quality is a key ingredient in the health and well-being of humans and ecosystems, and for social and economic development. Water quality is becoming a global concern of increasing significance, as risks of degradation translate directly into social economic impacts. Although there have been some regional successes in improving water quality, there are no data to suggest that there has been an overall improvement in water quality on a global scale. However, water quality is just as important as water quantity for satisfying basic human and environmental needs. Moreover, the two are inextricably linked, with poor water quality impacting water quantity in a number of ways. For example, polluted water that cannot be used for drinking, bathing, industry or agriculture may effectively reduce the amount of water available for use in a given area.
Approximately 3.5 million deaths related to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene occur each year, predominantly in developing countries. Poor water quality incurs many economic costs: degradation of ecosystem services; health-related costs; impacts on economic activities such as agriculture, industrial production and tourism; increased water treatment costs; and reduced property values among others.
Increasing recognition of the multitude of benefits of ecosystem goods and services, including wastewater treatment, has gradually made ecosystem health an important socio-economic issue, even in the poorest countries.
In terms of responses, there is a need for cost-effective options for collection, treatment and disposal of human wastes. It is estimated that over 80% of used water worldwide is not collected or treated. There is also a need to direct efforts toward industries using or producing toxic substances. However, there is an urgent lack of water quality data to support decision-making and management processes that needs to be addressed.
Source: World Water Development Report 2012