The world’s water quality: A pre-study for a worldwide assessment

The pre-study for a World Water Quality Assessment

in a nutshell


The aim of WWQA pre-study was to develop and demonstrate a data and model driven methodology to identify current “hotspots” of deteriorating freshwater quality including


•    types, intensity and sources of water pollution,

•    potential impacts relating to human health and food security (freshwater fishery),

•    main water quality data and information gaps, and

•    strategies for future monitoring.


As a main outcome, the report ‘A Snapshot of the World’s Water Quality – Towards a global assessment’ with accompanying Policy Brief summarizes the key findings of the pre-study. The methodology developed offers a baseline to measure progress, a framework for global assessment and a pathway towards sustainable solutions. This report will help bridge the gap between water quality, the inclusive green economy and the interlinked issues of sustainable development.


The second outcome is the UN-Water Analytical Brief ‘Towards a Worldwide Assessment of Freshwater Quality’. It describes how current limitations of data availability and accessibility could be overcome in order to enable policy makers to i) grasp the extent of the water quality problems, and ii) set quality targets both for water and related ecosystems. This report lays out a possible roadmap for a full World Water Quality Assessment. Herein it is argued that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be a main driving force for environmental protection and sustainable development over the coming two decades and therefore should provide the framework for this assessment.


The WWQA pre-study, conducted in 2013-2015, was initiated by the UN-Water Thematic Priority Area on Water Quality and led by the United Nations Environment Programme | UNEP. It was coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and conducted in cooperation with Center for Environmental Systems Research | CESR, University of Kassel, GEMS | Water and several regional partners.