Prof Bruce Misstear delivered a joint keynote address to the meeting of the World Water Quality Alliance on 17th September 2019. The meeting was held at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre at Ispra, Italy. The World Water Quality Alliance (WWQA) comprises more than 80 partner organisations including the various UN agencies concerned with water, other international water organisations, research institutes, universities and NGOs. Its activities are coordinated by UN Environment. The aim of the alliance is to carry out a world water quality assessment and to identify solutions for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. It constitutes a direct implementation action towards the United Nations Environment Assembly, UNEA, Resolution on “addressing water pollution to protect and restore water-related ecosystems” (UNEP/EA.3/Res.10 from 2017).
The topic of Bruce’s keynote address was Global Implications of Groundwater Quality. Even though groundwater provides about half of the world’s drinking water and more than 40% of agricultural water supplies, it is “out of sight, out of mind” and has often been ignored in previous global assessments. The lecture highlighted the range of anthropogenic and naturally-occurring pollutants that can affect this precious resource. Human activities that are leading to increased pressures include urbanisation and intensification of agriculture. As well as traditional pollutants, such as nitrate from fertilisers, emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics were also highlighted. Naturally-occurring contaminants include arsenic, fluoride and radioisotopes. Arsenic, in particular, is a major health concern, with tens of millions of people exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water worldwide.
The complex 3-dimensional nature of groundwater flow systems, plus the long time scales involved, pose particular challenges in monitoring and assessing groundwater quality on a global scale. Proposals were put forward for achieving the Alliance’s objectives taking account of these issues.
Bruce Misstear ss an adjunct associate professor in the School of Engineering in Trinity College Dublin, a Fellow Emeritus of the College and an Investigator in iCRAG. He was elected Secretary General of the International Association of Hydrogeologists in 2016 (a voluntary role). Bruce delivered the keynote address to the WWQA jointly with Claudia Ruz Vargas of the International Groundwater Assessment Centre in the Netherlands.