Policy responses

9.9.2 Improving water quality (SDG Targets 6.3 and 15.1)

This target focuses on reducing pollution, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing water recycling and reuse globally, as a means of improving water quality both for human uses, addressed by the WHO Drinking Water Safety Plan, and aquatic ecosystem health.

In the pan-European region, the basis for wastewater discharge limits, and wastewater collection, discharge and treatment, was set by regional legal instruments, including the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (which has been open to accession to all United Nations member states since 2016), including its Protocol on Water and Health, and the European Union’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (WWAP 2017). The implementation of these at national level has achieved water quality benefits beyond the implementing countries.

Knowledge about the quantity and quality of pollutants, and where they are released into water, remains a prerequisite for addressing water pollution, and its impacts on human and environmental health (Sustainable Facilities Tool 2017). Some countries (or regions) address this goal by Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (see United Nations Economic Commission for Europe [UNECE] 1998). On a pathway to a circular economy (SDG 12), however, full ‘life cycle analysis’ and management should be considered.