Volume 27, Issue 1

March 2011


SPECIAL ISSUE: Water Quality Management: Challenges and Expectations
GUEST EDITORS: Asit K. Biswas, Cecilia Tortajada and Rafael Izquierdo

Foreword »
Water Quality, the Challenge of the Future
Alfredo Boné


Water Quality Management: An Introductory Framework

Asit K. Biswasa and Cecilia Tortajadab
aThird World Centre for Water Management, Estado de México, México; bInternational Centre for Water and Environment, Zaragoza, Spain

Contact: Asit K. Biswas | Email: akbiswas@thirdworldcentre.org


Much has been written and discussed in recent years on the water crisis and the belief that the world may run out of water in the foreseeable future. The main issue, however, is not physical scarcity of water but poor management. It is primarily a crisis due to mismanagement. An important result of such poor management practices has been the continual deterioration of water quality on a global basis. The main emphasis in the past and present has been on water quantity management, including allocation. Managing water quality is still not receiving adequate attention, because it is significantly more complex, difficult and expensive compared with water quantity management.

Pages: 5-11

Water—A Reflection of Land Use: Understanding of Water Pathways and Quality Genesis

Malin Falkenmark
SIWI and Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm, Sweden

Contact: Malin Falkenmark | Email: malin.falkenmark@siwi.org


The paper aims at a scientifically based synthesis of water quality genesis and pollution problems arising from human interventions in the landscape, physical as well as chemical. First, water quality genesis is explained in terms of sources, water pathways and some time scales involved. It goes on to look closer at chemical reactions along water pathways down a landscape catena, using the simple perception of a stream tube. The river quality outcome is explained in terms of a mix of water fractions with different hydrochemical signatures. Water quality is finally looked at in a 4000-year perspective, explaining some regional similarities and differences in the past. In looking towards the future, a potential further intensification and expansion in scale is seen as probable in response to driving forces at work, poor mitigation capabilities and the long response times involved.

Pages: 13-32

Impact of Agriculture on Water Pollution in OECD Countries: Recent Trends and Future Prospects

Kevin Parris
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, France

Contact: Kevin Parris | Email: Kevin.Parris@oecd.org


Agricultural pollution of surface water, groundwater and marine waters relates to the contamination of drinking water, and harmful effects on ecosystems and costs for recreational activities, cultural values and commercial fisheries. After the introductory section, this paper examines the recent trends and economic costs of agricultural water pollution. Subsequent sections discuss recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) policy experiences in addressing water pollution in agriculture, and the medium outlook for pollution across OECD countries. The final section explores ways forward toward sustainable management of water quality in agriculture.

Pages: 33-52

Regulating Nonpoint Source Water Pollution in a Federal Government: Four Case Studies

Susan Graham, Adam Schempp and Jessica Troell
Environmental Law Institute, Washington, DC, USA

Contact: Adam Schempp | Email: schempp@eli.org


Without effective regulation, nonpoint source water pollution is likely to increase as growth continues across the globe. This paper explores the history of and policy, legal and regulatory options for addressing nonpoint source water pollution in countries with a federal government. The legal mechanisms for controlling nonpoint sources of water pollution at the national and state level in four countries are identified and analysed. While the forms of control and level of governance at which these pollutants are regulated vary among the countries explored, the effectiveness of their control will depend largely on how strategic rather than patchwork the structure is.

Pages: 53-69

Introduction to Environmental and Economic Consequences of Hypoxia 

Robert J. Díazand Rutger Rosenbergb
aVirginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Pt, Virginia, USA; bKristineberg Marine Research Station, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

Contact: Robert J. Díaz | Email: diaz@vims.edu


Low dissolved oxygen environments (known as hypoxic or dead zones) occur in a wide range of aquatic systems and vary in frequency, seasonality and persistence. While there have always been naturally occurring hypoxic habitats, anthropogenic activities related primarily to organic and nutrient enrichment related to sewage/industrial discharges and land runoff have led to increases in hypoxia and anoxia in both freshwater and marine systems. As a result, over the last 50 years there has been a rapid rise in the areas affected by hypoxia. The future status of hypoxia and its consequences for the environment, society and economies will depend on a combination of climate change (primarily from warming, and altered patterns for wind, currents and precipitation) and land-use change (primarily from expanded human population, agriculture and nutrient loadings). The overall forecast is for hypoxia to worsen, with increased occurrence, frequency, intensity and duration. The consequences of eutrophication-induced hypoxia can be reversed if long-term, broad-scale and persistent efforts to reduce nutrient loads are developed and implemented.

Pages: 71-82

Financing Water Quality Management

Céline Kauffmann
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, France

Contact: Céline Kauffmann | Email: celine.kauffman@oecd.org


In a context of greater pressure on water resources, ensuring continued and adequate access to safe water supplies will require the investment of significant funds and expertise in public sewerage and water and wastewater treatment infrastructure. After a short introduction, this paper examines the recent trends in the development of wastewater infrastructure. It then discusses the investment needs and reviews the potential sources of funding, before turning to recent trends in private-sector participation in water and wastewater treatment infrastructure and the framework conditions to make this participation work in the public interest.

Pages: 83-99

Water Governance in Aragon

Rafael Izquierdo
The Water Institute of Aragon, Regional Government of Aragon, Aragon, Spain

Contact: Rafael Izquierdo | Email: rizquierdoa@aragon.es


Good management of water resources goes beyond a mere political or socio-economic exercise. It is a responsibility on a global scale, which has to begin with appropriate actions at a local level. The addition of small local projects under unified planning, regulation and management criteria will determine an inflection point in sustainable management of water at a planetary level. It is like a chamber orchestra where every instrument plays its role in a certain location, but always under the unified coordination of a conductor who sets the “tempo”, the intensity, the rhythm and the idiosyncrasy of each individual action.

Pages: 110-117

Water Management in the Ebro River Basin: An Approach to the 2010–15 Hydrological Plan 

Manuel Omedas-Margelí
Office of Water Planning, Ebro River Basin Confederation, Zaragoza, Spain

Contact: Manuel Omedas-Margelí | Email: momedas@chebro.es


Water management professionals generally recognize that the management of water in rivers and aquifers is more efficient and sustainable at the river basin level than at the political and administrative levels of regional administrations. The development and consolidation of the river basin authorities has not been without difficulties. Experience has shown that the Spanish river basin confederations, the French water agencies and the US valley authorities have been successful. There have also, however, been failures, many attributable to the difficulties of separating the political power of regions and nation-states. In the Ebro River Basin, integrated water resources management was applied even when it crossed the administrative borders of the Autonomous Communities; otherwise, the water produced by the Ebro would be one-quarter of its current volume. Thanks to the integrated management, the Ebro economic region is supplied by major reservoirs, especially the Ebro reservoir. Its major irrigation systems, the Aragón and Catalonia Canal, Bardenas, the Ebro Delta and others, are projects that were conceived under the principle of integrated water management.

Pages: 119-147

Water Quality in Zaragoza 

Javier Celma
Environment and Sustainability Agency, Zaragoza City Council, Zaragoza, Spain

Contact: Javier Celma | Email: unidadambiente@zaragoza.es


The severe droughts of the 1990s made clear that the Strategic Plan of Zaragoza and the Action Plan of Local Agenda 21 in terms of water management were not appropriate to satisfy the development needs of its economy and the future demands of a growing population. In response, the city redefined its water management model, from one of continuous exploitation of resources to the search for solutions to reduce consumption. The city’s efforts included a comprehensive programme of stakeholder involvement, rehabilitation of drinking water treatment and distribution infrastructure, improvement of water quality, and reform of the billing system. After 12 years, the city has managed to deduce its total consumption by nearly 30% and improve the quality of its water very significantly.

Pages: 149-165

Water Quality Management in China: The Case of the Huai River Basin

Jun Xiaa, Yong-Yong Zhanga, Chesheng Zhana, Ai Zhong Yeb
aKey Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China; bBeijing Normal University, Beijing, China

Contact: Jun Xia | Email: xiaj@igsnrr.ac.cn


This paper addresses the importance of water quality management and the impacts of water pollution control and water development projects. The case study of the Huai River Basin is an example of the major challenges on water quality management that China is facing, and why water quality management will play a key role on its sustainable use and management. Three urgent issues for the Huai River Basin are identified: water and ecosystem interactions on the river system due to the impacts of increasing pollution and water development projects; comprehensive assessment on impact of dams and sluices on changes of river flow regimes, water quality and ecosystems; and improvement of water quality, and the restoration of river ecosystems through state-of-the-art environmental monitoring and integrated water management practices.

Pages: 167-180

Water Quality Management in Egypt

Safwat Abdel-Dayem
Arab Water Council, Cairo, Egypt

Contact: Safwat Abdel-Dayem | Email: safwat@arabwatercouncil.org


One of the greatest water-related challenges facing Egypt is the pollution of its surface and ground water resources from agricultural, domestic and industrial sources. The cost of environmental degradation due to water quality deterioration is relatively high with serious health and quality-of-life consequences. The closed water system of the country makes it more vulnerable to quality deterioration in a northward direction. The water quality of Lake Naser upstream of the High Aswan Dam and the main stem of the River Nile from Aswan to Cairo is good and traces of pollutants, if any, are far below the levels set in the quality standards set by Law 48. However, water quality in the irrigation and drainage canals deteriorates downstream and reaches alarming levels in the Delta. Monitoring water quality of the Nile system (Lake Naser, the main Nile and its branches, irrigation canals, drains and groundwater aquifers) started as early as the 1980s. The complexity of water quality management required the development of other mechanisms including policies, institutional and governance arrangements, infrastructure for monitoring and analytic laboratories, awareness and skilled human resources. This paper describes the different aspects of water quality management in Egypt and the current state as it stands by the end of the first decade of the 21st century. It also presents the methodology used in turning several monitoring programmes managed by different institutions into one national integrated system. It argues that water quality management is multifaceted and while progress along one aspect could be significant, other aspects could be lacking due to multiple reasons, the high cost involved in pollution reduction at the source is not the least.

Pages: 181-202

A New Mindset for Integrated Water Quality Management for South Africa

L. Boyda and R. Tompkinsb
aGolder Associates Africa, South Africa; bJeffares and Green, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Contact: L. Boyd | Email: lboyd@golder.co.za


The aim is to develop a conceptual model for aligning water resource quality and drinking water quality management. The model is based on the premise that good water quality is in everyone’s best interests. Current management approaches attach responsibility for good water quality at a high level. The integrated water quality management approach “breaks down” the management of water quality into smaller management units and establishes a horizontal and vertical reporting framework through the application of a generic business process. The business process requires the identification of critical risk factors and critical control points in each management unit. The results of the project were the development of the water use cycle, as a context for the model, and the development of a basic integrated water quality management. A case study is currently underway in the Breede River catchment of the Western Cape Province of South Africa in order to refine the proposed model.

Pages: 203-218

Water Quality and Health in Poor Urban Areas of Latin America

Maria Onestini
Centro de Estudios Ambientales (CEDEA), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Contact: Maria Onestini | Email: rponesti@criba.edu.ar


Water quality is largely absent in the water policy debate and analysis in the Latin American region. Although there is no disagreement as to the negative impact of unsafe and poor-quality water on human health, there is very little scrutiny and policy discussion on the matter. Considering data from different case studies on health and environment in poor urban areas in the region, this paper reviews some of the knowledge on water quality and human health in Latin American cities. Furthermore, conclusions as well as recommendations are drawn highlighting policy-oriented approaches to this problema.

Pages: 219-226

Conceptual Framework for Protecting Groundwater Quality

C. Martínez-Navarretea, A. Jiménez-Madrida, I. Sánchez-Navarrob, F. Carrasco-Cantosc and L. Moreno-Merinoa
aGeological   Survey of Spain, Madrid, Spain; bMinistry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, General Directorate of Water Resources, Madrid, Spain; cUniversity of Malaga Hydrogeology Group, Málaga, Spain

Contact: C. Martínez-Navarrete | Email: c.martinez@igme.es


A conceptual framework is defined to establish safeguard zones in groundwater bodies intended for drinking water according to the requirements of the Water Framework Directive. For this, the foundations of a three-phase methodology within a dynamic process are proposed. The results of the first two phases are presented, which contemplate the distribution of groundwater body abstraction points as well as hydrogeological criteria, evaluation of pressures and aquifer vulnerability, in addition to the defined wellhead protection areas of abstraction points. As a final proposal, it will be necessary for competent authorities to create a recommendations and restrictions guideline, which should be integrated into the rest of the policies related to land-use planning in order to protect groundwater adequately.

Pages: 227-243

Evolution of Water Management in Mexico 

Felipe I. Arreguín Cortés and Enrique Mejía Maravilla
National Water Commission of México, México

Contact: Enrique Mejía Maravilla | Email: enrique.mejia@conagua.gob.mx


The recognition of the need for an integrated and humane management of water resources has been gradually developed as a result of several major international conferences and forums. These, together with the World Water Vision, have reinforced the need for a comprehensive assessment of global freshwater resources as a basis for implementing a more integrated management of water. The recommendations suggested in the meetings and international forums have undoubtedly helped the development of water resources management in Mexico. In general, however, to implement them effectively and efficiently, it is necessary to develop financial mechanisms available to the payment capacity of each country and establish reasonable deadlines for meeting the goals. This paper analyses the impact of the recommendations arising from international meetings on water management in Mexico as well as their compliance in terms of water and wastewater management.

Pages: 245-261

Agriculture and Water Pollution: Farmers’ Perceptions in Central Mexico

Rosario Perez-Espejoa, Alonso Aguilar Ibarraa  and Jose Luis Escobedo-Sagazb
aInstituto de Investigaciones Económicas, UNAM, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, México City, México; bFacultad de Economia, Unidad Campo Redondo, Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila, Saltillo, Coahuila, México

Contact: Rosario Pérez-Espejo | Email: espejo@servidor.unam.mx


Agricultural nonpoint discharges represent a major problem in Mexico. However, the perception of farmers toward water-quality issues is critical for the potential acceptance of environmental measures. In order to assess farmers’ perceptions on water quality and agricultural practices, questionnaires were given to 145 farmers in an irrigation district in Central Mexico. It was found that farmers do not reckon water quality in the Lerma River to be a serious environmental problem and the stated willingness to diminish the use of pesticides and fertilizers depended on farm size. Smaller farmers were more reluctant to adopt sustainable practices than bigger ones. Therefore, differentiated agro-environmental policies might be more effective for dealing with non-point source water pollution.

Pages: 263-273