April 12, 2004 | Fortaleza, Brazil
As a general rule, water quality management has received much less attention compared to issues related to water quantity. Irrespective of the statements of most international institutions, the Centre’s own research indicates that much less than 10 percent of wastewater generated in Latin America is properly treated and disposed in an environmentally-sound manner. Surface and groundwater bodies are often being used as a convenient option for the disposal of domestic, industrial and agricultural effluents, all of which affect the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the receiving waters. In many parts of the Americas, water bodies, which are simultaneously the sources of water for human uses, have surpassed their assimilative capacities to serve as natural waste disposal facilities, necessitating even more thorough and complex water management practices, including increasingly costly treatment practices. Because of such developments, many water bodies within or near urban centres of most developed countries have often resembled the characteristics of open sewers, whose waters have become unsuitable for human appropriate uses, and/or survival of existing aquatic ecosystems.
Because of this unsatisfactory situation, the Centre convened an expert group meeting on water quality management for the Americas, in Fortaleza, Brazil, 12-13 April 2004, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Agencia Nacional de Aguas of Brazil. Leading water quality experts from the North and the South American countries, representing national and state governments, universities, research institutions, private sector, and international and non-governmental organisations, were specially invited to participate in the workshop.
The specially commissioned papers from the invited experts assessed and discussed water quality management practices in the countries concerned, especially in terms of their effectiveness. The impacts of existing and new and innovative instruments for water quality management were reviewed. It also discussed the mechanisms and instruments that have succeeded in managing water quality, at which locations, for what reasons, and how existing constraints can be overcome in a timely and cost-effective manner. The workshop also identified which management instruments are not working as they were initially expected, reasons as to why they are not working, and what policy actions are necessary to improve the situations. These assessments, analyses and reviews are expected to provide the first-ever reliable picture of the status of water quality management in the Americas.