Presenting target 6.3 on water quality and wastewater

By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
— 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

What and why?

Target 6.3 sets out to improve ambient water quality, which is essential to protecting both ecosystem health and human health, by eliminating, minimizing and significantly reducing different streams of pollution into water bodies. The main sources of pollution include wastewater from households, commercial establishments and industries (point sources), as well as run-off from urban and agricultural land (non-point sources).

Wastewater generated by households can result in the spread of pathogens and detrimental nutrient loadings in receiving waters if it is discharged without treatment. Wastewater generated by economic activities such as manufacturing industries may contain a variety of pollutants, including hazardous substances.

The focus on recycling, for example, recirculating water within an industry, and safe reuse, for example, using wastewater in agriculture, are complementary to the focus of SDG target 6.4 on reducing freshwater withdrawals and improving use efficiency.

Preliminary data suggest that one third of all rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America are affected by severe pathogenic pollution, one seventh suffer from severe organic pollution and one tenth have moderate to severe levels of salinity. Source: A Snapshot of the World's Water Quality: Towards a global assessment (UN Environment, 2016). Photo credit: Maria Schade.  

Preliminary data suggest that one third of all rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America are affected by severe pathogenic pollution, one seventh suffer from severe organic pollution and one tenth have moderate to severe levels of salinity. Source: A Snapshot of the World's Water Quality: Towards a global assessment (UN Environment, 2016). Photo credit: Maria Schade.

 

Currently, there is only a small amount of data available on wastewater treatment at the global scale, but some sources estimate about 80 per cent of all wastewater generated globally is discharged without any treatment. Source: 2017 UN World Water Development Report, Wastewater: The Untapped Resource (UN-Water, 2017). Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff, Creative Commons Attribution.

Currently, there is only a small amount of data available on wastewater treatment at the global scale, but some sources estimate about 80 per cent of all wastewater generated globally is discharged without any treatment. Source: 2017 UN World Water Development Report, Wastewater: The Untapped Resource (UN-Water, 2017). Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff, Creative Commons Attribution.

How can monitoring help?

Monitoring wastewater treatment and ambient water quality helps policy- and decision makers to identify water bodies at risk, and by combining water quality data with information about how the watercourse is being used, to direct interventions where they will have the greatest impact.

Monitoring also enables stricter enforcement of pollution laws and discharge permits. If a country lacks national targets for safe wastewater treatment or water quality parameters, the monitoring of the global indicators provides a good opportunity to develop these.

Progress towards target 6.3 at the global level will be monitored through two indicators: