Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems ( Publisher's URL )

Material Information

Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems
Physical Description:
Fact sheet
Haman, Dorota Z.
University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date:


Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status:
General Note:
"Original publication date April, 1994. Reviewed July, 2002."

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID:

This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text


AE246 Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems1 Adapted by: Dorota Z. Haman and Donald A. Brown2 1. This document is AE246, one of a series of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date April, 1994. Reviewed July, 2002. Visit the EDIS Web Site at 2. Dorota Z. Haman, Associate Professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611, Donald A. Brown, Pennsylvania Representative at the Earth Summit, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Larry R. Arrington, Interim Dean THE RELEVANCE OF CHAPTER 18 OF THE AGENDA 21 FOR STATE GOVERNMENTS PROTECTION OF THE QUALITY AND SUPPLY OF FRESHWATER RESOURCES: APPLICATION OF INTEGRATED APPROACHES TO THE DEVELOPMENT, MANAGEMENT AND USE OF WATER RESOURCES INTRODUCTION In 1987, the UN World Commission on Environment and Development linked the issue of environmental protection to global environmental economic growth and development. Headed by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, this commission published the report Our Common Future. The Brundtland Commission report concluded that the world was threatened by extraordinarily serious global environmental problems, caused in large part by development patterns that were leaving increasing numbers of people poor. Scientific evidence demonstrated rapid destruction of air, water, species of flora and fauna, deserts, forests, and other ecosystems as well as overuse of natural resources. It is predicted that the world population will more than double during the next century. As a result, a new development pattern is required for the entire planet that would "sustain" human development. The Brundtland Commission report thrust the concept of "sustainable development" into the mainstream of world debate, as the only manner to confront the twin problems of environmental degradation and necessary economic development. The need for sustainable development applies to both developing as well as developed nations of the earth. The developing world needs sustainable development to avoid the environmental destruction entailed by moving billions of the poorest people on earth to basic levels of human health and dignity. The developed nations must move to sustainable development to avoid environmental catastrophe entailed by the developed world's depletion of natural resources and its destruction of air, water, and the natural environment.


Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems 2 In December 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations called for a meeting of all the nations of the Earth to confront the twin problems of environmental destruction and the necessity for sustainable development. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was set for June of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Rio Earth Summit was the largest international meeting in history. During the meeting five documents were signed. The first two, the Conventions on Climate Change and Biodiversity, received most of the publicity in the United States, largely because of the role played by the United States in perceived weakening of the first and the refusal to sign the second. Other documents signed at Rio were the Rio Declaration, a nonbinding set of 27 principles that deal with the rights and responsibilities of nations relating to environment and development, and Forest Principles Agreement, a nonbinding statement of principles for the sustainable management of global forests. Not widely publicized in the United States was the main substantive work of the Earth Summit, Agenda 21, the fifth document signed at Rio. Agenda 21 is a comprehensive blueprint for global action into the 21st century designed to solve the twin problems of environmental destruction and the necessity for sustainable development. It is an 800 page document comprising four sections and 40 chapters. Agenda 21 is based on the notion that humanity has reached a defining moment in its history. The nations of the earth cannot continue present policies that deepen economic divisions between rich and poor and that are causing the continued deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for life on earth. If the peoples of the world are to avoid environmental catastrophe they must move to implement policies and practices of sustainable development. Even though Agenda 21 is not binding on the signatory nations, it is expected to work as a set of normative principles that will determine appropriate international behavior in the next century. A new commission on sustainable development has been set up in the United Nations to review the efforts of the nations of the world to implement Agenda 21. In agreeing to Agenda 21 the nations of the earth have agreed to develop plans implementing Agenda 21 at the national, state, and local level. Agenda 21 calls for 2,500 specific actions. Agenda 21 addresses the pressing problems of today and also aims at preparing the world for the challenges of the next century. It reflects a global consensus and political commitment at the highest level on development and environment cooperation. Its successful implementation is first and foremost the responsibility of governments. National strategies, plans, policies, and processes are crucial in achieving this. International cooperation should support and supplement such national efforts. In this context, the United Nations systems has a key role to play. Other international, regional, and subregional organizations are also called upon to contribute to this effort. The broadest public participation and the active involvement of the non-governmental organizations and other groups should also be encouraged. The program areas that constitute Agenda 21 are described in terms of the basis for action, objectives, activities, and means of implementation. Agenda 21 is a dynamic program. It will be carried out by the various actors according to the different situations, capacities, and priorities of countries and in full respect of all the principles contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. It could evolve over time in the light of changing needs and circumstances. This process marks the beginning of a new global partnership for sustainable development. Freshwater resources are an essential component of the earth's hydrosphere and an indispensable part of all terrestrial ecosystems. The freshwater environment is characterized by the hydrological cycle, including floods, and droughts, which in some regions have become more extreme and dramatic in their consequences. Global climatic change and atmospheric pollution could also have an impact on freshwater resources and their availability and, through sea-level rise, threaten low-lying coastal areas and small island ecosystems. Water is needed in all aspects of life. The general objective is to make certain that adequate supplies of water of good quality are maintained for the entire


Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems 3 population of this planet, while preserving the hydrological, biological, and chemical functions of ecosystems, adapting human activities within the capacity limits of nature and combating vectors of water-related diseases. Innovative technologies, including the improvement of indigenous technologies, are needed to fully utilize limited water resources and to safeguard those resources against pollution. The widespread scarcity, gradual destruction and aggravated pollution of freshwater resources in many world regions, along with the progressive encroachment of incompatible activities, demand integrated water resources planning and management. Such integration must cover all types of interrelated freshwater bodies, including both surface water and groundwater, and duly consider water quantity and quality aspects. The multisectoral nature of water resources development in the context of socio-economic development must be recognized, as well as the multi-interest utilization of water resources for water supply and sanitation, agriculture, industry, urban development, hydropower generation, inland fisheries, transportation, recreation, low and flat lands management, and other activities. Rational water utilization schemes for the development of surface and underground water supply sources and other potential sources have to be supported by concurrent water conservation and wastage minimization measures. Priority, however, must be accorded to flood prevention and control measures, as well as sedimentation control, where required. Transboundary water resources and their use are of great importance to riparian states. In this connection, cooperation among those states may be desirable in conformity with existing agreements and/or other relevant arrangements, taking into account the interests of all riparian states concerned. The following program areas are proposed for the freshwater sector: (a) Integrated water resources development and management; (b) Water resources assessment; (c) Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems; (d) Drinking-water supply and sanitation; (e) Water and sustainable urban development; (f) Water for sustainable food production and rural development; (g) Impacts of climate change on water resources. This publication lists only those sections of Chapter 18 that deal with the protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems. It addresses planning responsibilities at the state level. The sections which deal only with national or international responsibilities or problems are omitted. The original numbering system of Agenda 21 has been retained so that anyone wishing to compare this document with the full Agenda 21 may easily refer to numbered paragraphs. PROTECTION OF WATER RESOURCES, WATER QUALITY AND AQUATIC ECOSYSTEMS Basis for Action 18.35. Freshwater is a unitary resource. Long-term development of global freshwater requires holistic management of resources and a recognition of the interconnectedness of the elements related to freshwater and freshwater quality. There are few regions of the world that are still exempt from problems of loss of potential sources of freshwater supply, degraded water quality, and pollution of surface and groundwater sources. Major problems affecting the water quality of rivers and lakes arise, in variable order of importance according to different situations, from inadequately treated domestic sewage, inadequate controls on the discharges of industrial waste waters, loss and destruction of catchment areas, ill-considered setting of industrial plants, deforestation, uncontrolled shifting cultivation, and poor agricultural practices. This gives rise to the leaching of nutrients and pesticides. Aquatic ecosystems are disturbed and living freshwater resources are threatened. Under certain


Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems 4 circumstances, aquatic ecosystems are also affected by agricultural water resource development projects such as dams, river diversions, water installations, and irrigation schemes. Erosion, sedimentation, deforestation, and desertification have led to increased land degradation, and the creation of reservoirs has, in some cases, resulted in adverse effects on ecosystems. Many of these problems have arisen from a development model that is environmentally destructive and from a lack of public awareness and education about surface and groundwater resource protection. Ecological and human health effects are the measurable consequences, although the means to monitor them are inadequate or non-existent in many countries. There is a widespread lack of perception of the linkages between the development, management, use, and treatment of water resources and aquatic ecosystems. A preventive approach, where appropriate, is crucial to the avoiding of costly subsequent measures to rehabilitate, treat, and develop new water supplies. Objectives 18.36. The complex interconnectedness of freshwater systems demands that freshwater management be holistic (taking a catchment management approach) and based on a balanced consideration of the needs of people and the environment. The Mar del Plata Action Plan has already recognized the intrinsic linkage between water resource development projects and their significant physical, chemical, biological, health, and socio-economic repercussions. The overall environmental health objective was set as follows: "to evaluate the consequences which the various users of water have on the environment, to support measures aimed at controlling water-related diseases, and to protect ecosystems." 18.37. The extent and severity of contamination of unsaturated zones and aquifers have long been underestimated owing to the relative inaccessibility of aquifers and the lack of reliable information on aquifer systems. The protection of groundwater is therefore an essential element of water resource management. 18.38. Three objectives will have to be pursued concurrently to integrate water-quality elements into water resource management: (a) Maintenance of ecosystem integrity, according to a management principle of preserving aquatic ecosystems, including living resources, and of effectively protecting them from any form of degradation on a drainage basin basis; (b) Public health protection, a task requiring not only the provision of safe drinking-water but also the control of disease vectors in the aquatic environment; (c) Human resources development, a key to capacity-building and a prerequisite for implementing water-quality management. 18.39. All states, according to their capacity and available resources, through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations, could set the following targets: (a) To identify the surface and groundwater resources that could be developed for use on a sustainable basis and other major developable water-dependent resources and, simultaneously, to initiate programs for the protection, conservation, and rational use of these resources on a sustainable basis; (b) To identify all potential sources of water supply and prepared outlines for their protection, conservation, and rational use; (c) To initiate effective water pollution prevention and control programs, based on an appropriate mixture of pollution reduction-at-source strategies, environmental impact assessments, and enforceable standards for major point-source discharges and high-risk non-point sources, commensurate with their socioeconomic development; (d) To participate, as far as appropriate, in international water-quality monitoring and management programs such as the Global Water Quality Monitoring Program (GEMS/WATER), the UNEP Environmentally Sound Management of


Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems 5 Inland Waters (EMINWA), the FAO regional inland fishery bodies, and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention); (e) To reduce the prevalence of water-associated diseases, starting with the eradication of dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) and onchocerciasis (river blindness) by the year 2000; (f) To establish, according to capacities and needs, biological, health, physical, and chemical quality criteria for all water bodies (surface and groundwater), with a view to an ongoing improvement of water quality; (g) To adopt an integrated approach environmentally sustainable management of water resources, including the protection of aquatic ecosystems and freshwater living resources; (h) To put in place strategies for the environmentally sound management of freshwaters and related coastal ecosystems, including consideration of fisheries, aquaculture, animal grazing, agricultural activities, and biodiversity. Activities 18.40. All states, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities: (a) Water resources protection and conservation: (1) Establishment and strengthening of technical and institutional capacities to identify and protect potential sources of water supply within all sectors of society; (2) Identification of potential sources of water supply and preparation of national profiles; (3) Preparation of national plans for water resources protection and conservation; (4) Rehabilitation of important, but degraded, catchment areas, particularly on small islands: (5) Strengthening of administrative and legislative measures to prevent encroachment on existing and potentially usable catchment areas; (b) Water pollution prevention and control: (1) Application of the "polluter pays" principle, where appropriate, to all kinds of sources, including on-site and off-site sanitation; (2) Promotion of the construction of treatment facilities for domestic sewage and industrial effluents and the development of appropriate technologies, taking into account sound traditional and indigenous practices; (3) Establishment of standards for the discharge of effluents and for the receiving waters; (4) Introduction of the precautionary approach in water-quality management, where appropriate, with a focus on pollution minimization and prevention through use of new technologies, product and process change, pollution reduction at source and effluent reuse, recycling and recovery, treatment, and environmentally safe disposal; (5) Mandatory environmental impact assessment of all major water resource development projects potentially impairing water quality and aquatic ecosystems, combined with the delineation of appropriate remedial measures and a strengthened control of new industrial installations, solid waste landfills, and infrastructure development projects;


Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems 6 (6) Use of risk assessment and risk management in reaching decisions in this area and ensuring compliance with those decisions; (7) Identification and application of best environmental practices at reasonable cost to avoid diffuse pollution, namely, through a limited, rational and planned use of nitrogenous fertilizers and other agrochemicals (pesticides, herbicides) in agricultural practices; (8) Encouragement and promotion of the use of adequately treated and purified waste waters in agriculture, aquaculture, industry, and other sectors; (c) Development and application of clean technology: (1) Control of industrial waste discharges, including low-waste production technologies and water recirculation, in an integrated manner and through application of precautionary measures derived from a broad-based life-cycle analysis; (2) Treatment of municipal waste water for safe reuse in agriculture and aquaculture; (3) Development of biotechnology, inter alia, for waste treatment, production of biofertilizers and other activities; (4) Development of appropriate methods for water pollution control, taking into account sound traditional and indigenous practices; (d) Groundwater protection: (1) Development of agricultural practices that do not degrade groundwaters; (2) Application of the necessary measures to mitigate saline intrusion into aquifers of small islands and coastal plains as a consequence of sea level rise or overexploitation of coastal aquifers; (3) Prevention of aquifer pollution through the regulation of toxic substances that permeate the ground and the establishment of protection zones in groundwater recharge and abstraction areas: (4) Design and management of landfills based upon sound hydrogeologic information and impact assessment, using the best practicable and best available technology; (5) Promotion of measures to improve the safety and integrity of wells and well-head areas to reduce intrusion of biological pathogens and hazardous chemicals into aquifers at well sites; (6) Water-quality monitoring, as needed, of surface and groundwaters potentially affected by sites storing toxic and hazardous materials; (e) Protection of aquatic ecosystems: (1) Rehabilitation of polluted and degraded water bodies to restore aquatic habitats and ecosystems; (2) Rehabilitation programs for agricultural lands and for other users, taking into account equivalent action for the protection and use of groundwater resources important for agricultural productivity and for the biodiversity of the tropics; (3) Conservation and protection of wetlands (owing to their ecological and habitat importance for many species), taking into account social and economic factors; (4) Control of noxious aquatic species that may destroy some other water species; (f) Protection of freshwater living resources:


Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems 7 (1) Control and monitoring of water quality to allow for the sustainable development of inland fisheries; (2) Protection of ecosystems from pollution and degradation for the development of freshwater aquaculture projects; (g) Monitoring and surveillance of water resources and waters receiving wastes: (1) Establishment of networks for the monitoring and continuous surveillance of waters receiving wastes and of point and diffuse sources of pollution; (2) Promotion and extension of the application of environmental impact assessments of geographical information systems; (3) Surveillance of pollution sources to improve compliance with standards and regulations and to regulate the issue of discharge permits; (4) Monitoring of the utilization of chemicals in agriculture that may have an adverse environmental effect; (5) Rational land use to prevent land degradation, erosion, and siltation of lakes and other water bodies; (h) Development of national and international legal instruments that may be required to protect the quality of water resources, as appropriate, particularly for: (1) Monitoring and control of pollution and its effects in national and transboundary waters; (2) Control of long-range atmospheric transport of pollutants; (3) Control of accidental and/or deliberate spills in national and/or transboundary water bodies; (4) Environmental impact assessment. Means of Implementation (a) Financing and cost evaluation (b) Scientific and technological means 18.42. States should undertake cooperative research projects to develop solutions to technical problems that are appropriate for the conditions in each watershed or country. States should consider strengthening and developing national research centers linked through networks and supported by regional water research institutes. The north-south twinning of research centers and field studies by international water research institutions should be actively promoted. It is important that a minimum percentage of funds for water resource development projects is allocated to research and development, particularly in externally funded projects. 18.43. Monitoring and assessment of complex aquatic systems often require multidisciplinary studies involving several institutions and scientists in a joint program. International water-quality programs, such as GEMS/WATER, should be oriented towards the water-quality of developing countries. User-friendly software and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Global Resource Information Database (GRID) methods should be developed for the handling, analysis, and interpretation of monitoring data and for the preparation of management strategies. Human Resource Development 18.44. Innovative approaches should be adopted for professional and managerial staff training in order to cope with changing needs and challenges. Flexibility and adaptability regarding emerging water pollution issues should be developed. Training activities should be undertaken periodically at all levels within the organizations responsible for water-quality management and innovative teaching techniques adopted for specific aspects of water-quality monitoring and control, including development of training skills, in-service training, problem-solving workshops, and refresher training courses.


Protection of Water Resources, Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems 8 18.45. Suitable approaches include the strengthening and improvement of the human resource capabilities of local governments in managing water protection, treatment and use, particularly in urban areas, and the establishment of national and regional technical and engineering courses on the subjects of water-quality protection and control at existing schools and education/training courses on water resources protection and conservation for laboratory field technicians, women, and other water user groups. Capacity-Building 18.46. The effective protection of water resources and ecosystems from pollution requires considerable upgrading of most countries' present capacities. Water-quality management programs require a certain minimum infrastructure and staff to identify and implement technical solutions and to enforce regulatory action. One of the key problems today and for the future is the sustained operation and maintenance of these facilities. In order not to allow resources gained from previous investments to deteriorate further, immediate action is required in a number of areas.