Three children a minute die globally due to water related diseases. The amount of freshwater available globally is only 1%. In a growing world we need not only drinking water, but water for agriculture, sanitation and industrial uses. Water is essential for life, yet the World Health Organisation estimate that at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source that is contaminated with faeces.
Goal 6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG6) aims to ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. We have engaged with our chemical sciences community and representatives from across the water sector to identify the key priorities and challenges that must be addressed to achieve clean and plentiful water for all, and outlined the actions needed to do this.in our policy position ‘Sustainable Water for All’.
Sustainable water is a global issue, as water forms part of a constantly repeating global life cycle and takes no notice of national boundares boundaries.
Treating water can be an expensive and energy-intensive process and in some places water is needlessly wasted due to inadequate infrastructure.
The chemical sciences will help by:
- developing new methods for water treatment
- developing new materials for applications such as purification membranes and pipework
- using analytical chemistry to create ways to rapidly test water quality
We will only tackle the issues and reach the goal of SDG6 through conversation, collaboration and knowledge sharing. It is important to connect researchers, policy makers and industry, so that the scientific expertise is available to decision makers and industries at the right time. Science informs decision-making and can be used by those working in the broader water sector to prioritise areas in particular need of research to meet SDG6.
What we do
We work with our community to demonstrate the role of chemical sciences in ensuring that globally we all have sufficient water of the right standard for all of our needs. We do this through preparing reports and materials that highlight the role of chemistry in providing safe water.
We have an interest group, the Water Science Forum who focuses upon the application of chemical sciences in the management of the water cycle and the impact of these activities on the natural environment. The group organises several events open to all in the water science community.
We publish cutting-edge research on water science and technology; learn more through our journal Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology.
We have contributed to a partnership of chemical societies and funding agencies from across the world that brought together leading water researchers to discuss how the chemical sciences can contribute towards future water security. Their discussions and recommendations are captured in the white paper Water: Challenges and Solutions in a Changing World
In order to ensure that we can provide access to water for all with our limited global resources, we need to think carefully about the quality of the water we use for different purposes. Read more about the complexities of water quality in this article on the concept of ‘Water Purity’ by Kevin Prior, the Chair of our Water Science Forum.
Water quality is a topic where the challenges are constantly evolving and changing. In some parts of the world, such as Africa, water quality issues include excess salinity, metal waste and bio-contamination, whilst, emerging water quality issues in the UK include the contamination of water by pharmaceutical substances.