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Urban, agricultural, and environmental protection practices for sustainable water quality

Alfredo, Katherine A.; Russo, Tess A.

Sustainable water management often emphasizes water resource quantity, with focus on availability and use practices. However, only a subset of the available water may be usable when also considering water quality. Water quality management is examined within three broad sectors—urban, agriculture, and environmental systems—to investigate how water quality sustainability (WQS) is defined by each and across the three sectors. The definitions determined for both urban and agricultural WQS mention downstream human and ecosystem use; however, regulatory policy does not always support these definitions. This challenge of managing water quality locally and downstream, coupled with interactions across multiple sectors, has led to a fragmented approach to water quality management. Legislation typically divides water quality management into compartments without considering the entire system. Within the United States, there is an uneven distribution of responsibility regarding water quality protection, and notable policies which counteract efforts to improve water quality. The review suggests that despite a growing intention to use a single system approach where water is considered as a limited resource that must supply all competing interests, one does not yet exist and is even hindered by current policies and regulations. Recent policy is signaling a shift toward increasing interagency coordination; however, the basic definitions of WQS remain disconnected across sectors. It is the conclusion of this review that sustainable water quality is not currently practiced in the United States.

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Also Published In

Title
WIREs Water
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1229

More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia Water Center
Published Here
January 8, 2018