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water quality

How to test water quality? Here are some low-cost, low-tech options

Jessica Anne Lawson's picture

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) calls for “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water” by 2030, which is quite different from access to an “improved” water source, which has been our primary focus with the Millennium Development Goals. This makes water quality monitoring essential: how can we assess progress towards #SDG6 without knowing whether water is safe to drink?

A set of water samples showing increasing turbidity (left to right), as well as changes in color.
Photo Credit: Village of Chase, British Columbia
 

Testing water quality: When labs don’t work

Pratibha Mistry's picture
Photo credit: wwwuppertal

Drinking water utilities, water resource management agencies, and environmental regulators across the world are required to establish laboratories to test water quality. Proper testing ensures that water is safe for its intended use, whether that be drinking, bathing, fishing, watering crops, or sustaining ecological health. Yet we routinely find poorly-functioning analytical labs. Failure to follow standardized procedures, maintain certification, and perform routine checks for quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) compromises the reliability of lab results. As a result, the data are of limited use for managing water safety.

How big is this problem? Inadequate lab facilities are often cited as a challenge or limitation in development-related literature, though statistics are hard to come by. In fact, labs have been cited as a compounding factor in mass arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh: a lack of laboratory capacity was one of several reasons that no one tested the groundwater for arsenic before millions of tube wells were installed to supply drinking water. In 2000, a review of water quality monitoring in the Russian Federation concluded that data quality was a major problem, with laboratories “worse than many found in developing countries.”
 

Protecting our water sources brings a wealth of benefits

Andrea Erickson's picture

The journey of our water from source to tap is long, and not one we think much about. For most of us, our water starts high in the mountains, hundreds of miles away. From there, water flows across natural and working lands until a portion is channeled to water pipes that move water to our faucets, to farms, and to various types of businesses. Most often we think of those pipes as being our main water infrastructure, but upstream lands play a key role in capturing, storing and moving our water. By conserving these lands, we can better protect our water and generate additional benefits for people and nature.  
 
Today, approximately 40 percent of the land in urban source watersheds of the world’s largest cities show high to moderate levels of degradation. This degradation impacts the present and future quality and reliability of water flows. However, by investing in nature, we can reduce these impacts.

Korea: A model for development of the water and sanitation sector

Alexander Danilenko's picture
Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul, Korea 
Photo: Mark Pegrum

Can a sustainable water sector be developed simultaneously with a country’s growth? Can the water sector continue to expand and achieve comprehensive coverage and financial sustainability goals to become a recognized global model for water sector management and performance? Can a country without a single sewer line in 1958 have 90 percent of its wastewater treated by 2012?

The answer is yes! The example is Korea.

Zai jian – Goodbye – See you again: a look back on China's progress upon leaving the World Bank

David Dollar's picture

This is my last week in the World Bank, after working at the institution for 20 years, the last five as country director for China and Mongolia.

China ideas marketplace uses entrepreneurial spirit to tackle social issues

David Dollar's picture

A woman explains a project to restore education in the part of Gansu, China, hit by last May's earthquake. Grassroots civil society organizations proposed innovative project ideas this week addressing development issues at the China Development Marketplace.