Metcalfe, C., Guppy L., Qadir, M., 2017. Global Barriers To Improving Water Quality: A Critical Review. UNU-INWEH Report Series, Issue 02. United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Hamilton, Canada.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 sets ambitious targets for improving global water quality prior to 2030. However, in low-income countries (LICs) and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs), there are significant barriers to improving water quality. Progress towards achieving the SGD 6 targets is unlikely unless there are programmes put in place to address these barriers. In this critical review, we document past experiences that show that interventions within LICs and LMICs to reduce sources of water pollution from industries, municipal wastewater and agricultural runoff have been largely ineffective. We review evidence that improvements to water quality are likely to lag behind advances in other SGD targets in countries with developing economies. Finally, water quality monitoring programmes in many nations are unlikely to be effective because of inadequate frequency and density of measurements, as well as unreasonable expectations regarding the scope of the monitoring programmes . We present some potential solutions to these problems, including setting realistic objectives for monitoring programmes, developing appropriate, lowcost solutions for pollution abatement and focusing on strengthening institutional and regulatory capacity.