HOME > Programs > TIP Platform > TIP Platform > Towards the 9th World Water Forum : Why is water quality such a crucial component in the water

Session Introduction

The concept of water safety is often reduced to the idea of quantity. However, a large section of the population still does not have access to water of sufficient quality not to affect their health. Alas, water quality is also affected by external pressures such as increasing demography, climate change or new types of pollutants. How to address this essential and often overlooked component of water security?
IWRA has a long experience working on water quality issues. This has been transcribed by both by the realization of thematic projects dedicated to the theme, and by a strong involvement in the thematic processes of the World Water Forum, as a Champion or Strategic Partner. This involvement persists in the preparation of the upcoming 9th Forum being organised in Dakar, in 2021.
This forum is being organized for the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa, in an area where practically half of the population remains in a precarious situation vis-à-vis access to water. What are the challenges, near the mid-point of the 2030 Agenda, to ensure decent water quality for the population, and what messages should be brought to Dakar in 2021?

Session Schedule

Time Contents Speaker/Participants
10:30 - 10:35(5’) Welcoming remarks Patrick Lavarde, Chair of 9th World Water Forum
10:35 - 10:45(10’) Keynote Speech – Water Security consideration throughout the Forum processes Yoonjin Kim
Executive Director of Korea Water Forum
10:45 - 11:30(45’) Panel Discussion –Of water quality challenges to achieve Water Security
  • Prof. Dongil SEO, Chungnam National University
  • Gabriel Eckstein, IWRA
  • Fatima Bareerah, PCRWR (Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources)
  • Marcus Wishart, World Bank
11:30 – 11:50(20’) How to build strong messages to the Forum? Q&A with the audience Moderator: Gary Jones – ISC Chair of the XVII World Water Congress
11:50 - 12:00(10’) Concluding remarks Moderator: Gary Jones – ISC Chair of the XVII World Water Congress



Intelligent Management System of Nonpoint Source Pollutant Loads in Urban Runoffs (Prof. Dongil SEO, Chungnam National University)

ISTORMS (Integrated Stormwater Runoff Management System): The ISTORMS includes water quantity and quality prediction using a hydrological model, real time monitoring and sampling techniques, and automatic or remotely controllable in-situ runoff pollutant treatment system. Prof Seo addressed what needs to be done in order to connect information between basins and their water bodies by introducing ISTORMS’ case study.

Pharmaceuticals Pollution in our Freshwater Systems (Gabriel Eckstein, IWRA President, Texas A&M University)

Prof. Eckstein discussed the extent of pharmaceuticals pollution in our freshwater systems, their sources, the threat that it poses to people and the environment, how we currently manage it, and what strategies might be used to reduce its presence in the environment. Prof. Eckstein concluded by highlighting the need to target early stages of pharmaceuticals lifecycle (improve the physiological absorption of drugs, reduce dosages, reduce use of substances that are known to be harmful to humans or the environment, education of doctors and nurses and development of alternative produces, and finally, improve Recycling, take-back, and other programs for proper disposal).

Knowing Water Quality is halfway to achieving water security (Fatima Bareerah, PCRWR)

After presenting the key water quality challenges (pollution of surface water and ground water, sea water intrusion and soil salinity) as well the status of drinking water in Pakistan (microbial contamination, arsenic nitrate and fluoride contamination in some provinces), Mrs. Fatima presented a roadmap to achieve drinking water security in Pakistan: Setting realistic aspirations and fair reporting is a gate way to water security; Improve Federal government control through policies, laws and regulations; Strengthen capacity building of provincial government departments for implementation and development to improve service delivery; Impulse change in governance system (e.g. convert to bulk water supply phase-wise); Raise awareness that tap water is not a free commodity; Raise awareness through education at all levels, media and ownership by larger power centres and influencers.

Quality unknown, the invisible water crisis (Marcus Wishart, World Bank)

The world faces an invisible crisis of water quality. Its impacts are wider, deeper, and more uncertain than previously thought and require urgent attention. While much attention has focused on water quantity – too much water, in the case of floods; too little water, in the case of droughts – water quality has attracted significantly less consideration. Quality Unknown shows that urgent attention must be given to the hidden dangers that lie beneath the water’s surface:

  • Water quality challenges are not unique to developing countries but universal across rich and poor countries alike.
  • What we think of as safe may be far from it. Water quality is complex and its impacts on health and other sectors are still largely uncertain. Worse, regulations guiding safety standards are often fragmented across countries and agencies, thus adding to this uncertainty.
  • The forces driving these challenges are accelerating. Intensification of agriculture, land use changes, more variable rainfall patterns due to climate change and growing industrialization due to countries’ development all continue to grow.

Poor water quality threatens growth, harms public health and imperils food security: water pollution endangers economic growth. The release of pollution upstream acts as a headwind that lowers economic growth downstream. When Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) – a measure of how much organic pollution is in water and a proxy measure of overall water quality – passes a certain threshold, GDP growth in downstream regions is lowered by a third. In middle-income countries – where BOD is a growing problem because of increased industrial activity - GDP growth downstream of highly polluted areas drops by half.



This very productive session brought together Korean and international water quality experts from international and national organisation, private and public sectors, as well as representatives of the 9th World Water Forum Process. The main objective of this session was to set clear priorities and messages to address the challenges of global water quality that can be integrated into the thematic framework of the 9th Forum: the main messages of the session can be found below.

Major messages

  • There is a need to target early stages of pharmaceuticals lifecycle to avoid or reduce pharmaceuticals pollution: improve the physiological absorption of drugs, reduce dosages, reduce use of substances that are known to be harmful to humans or the environment, education of doctors and nurses and development of alternative produces, and finally, improve recycling, take-back, and other programs for proper disposal.
  • There is a strong need to include women in decision making.
  • Information is both a resource and a rallying cry. The first step to tackling the water quality challenge is recognizing the scale of it. The world needs reliable, accurate and comprehensive information so that new insights can be discovered, decision-making can be evidence-based and citizens can call for action. Encouraging and enabling this information and its sharing is critical to getting water pollution under control.
  • Prevention is better than cure. While sunlight may be the best disinfectant, legislation, implementation and enforcement are also crucial to scrub the world’s waterways of pollution. Information and transparency must be coupled with well-designed, effectively implemented and scrupulously enforced regulations for firms and individuals to adhere to water quality guidelines.
  • Invest in what works. Pollution that cannot be prevented must be treated. Wastewater treatment has a vital role to play – it is crucial for a country’s health, food security and economy by helping remove pollution and debris. Investments in wastewater treatment are a down payment on a cleaner future.


A follow up session could be organized either a the XVII World Water Congress in Daegu, 11-15 May 2020, or in any other international milestone event on the road to the 9th World Water Forum. As Strategic Partner for the Thematic Priority of Water Security for the 9th World Water Forum, IWRA will make sure to report from the session and include those messages within the structure of the Water Security theme.