The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets related to water quality must be ambitious and comprehensive if they are to prevent a global water quality crisis. This is because the scale of water pollution is immense. Every day, humans generate millions of tons of solid and liquid waste. Much of this waste is discharged untreated to water bodies, severely polluting the water and damaging human health, ecosystems and industries.
A 2014 analysis supported by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows that 24 Mha of irrigated croplands lie within urban areas and 130 Mha of irrigated croplands are located within 20 km of urban areas (Thebo et al., 2014). A significant proportion of this farmland is irrigated with diluted wastewater. In and around 75% of all cities in developing countries, water used for irrigation is highly polluted (Raschid-Sally and Jayakody, 2008).
For decades, the fate and impacts of waste and wastewater were poorly considered in the global development agenda spearheaded by the Millennium Development Goals. However, it is now widely recognized that water quality targets need to go beyond access to sanitation facilities. They must address the fate of wastewaters and their impacts on the environment and human health, and be relevant for developed and developing countries alike.
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