This year's theme is "Coping with Water Scarcity" and it highlights the need for increased integration and cooperation to ensure sustainable, efficient and equitable management of scarce water resources, both at international and local levels.
According to the United Nations, which organizes World Water Day: "Imbalances between availability and demand, the degradation of groundwater and surface water quality, intersectoral competition, interregional and international disputes, all center on the question of how to cope with scarce water resources."
Two ISO technical committees develop International Standards for water and related issues: ISO/TC 147, Water quality, and ISO/TC 224, Service activities relating to drinking water supply systems and wastewater systems - Quality criteria of the service and performance indicators.
ISO TC/147, which was established in 1971, is responsible for standardization in the field of water quality, including the definition of terms, water sampling, measurement and reporting of water characteristics. Thirty-three countries participate in its work, along with another 47 as observers, and 20 international organizations, including UN agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
Together, they develop an international consensus on standardized processes that allow a common understanding on water quality problems among several countries sharing the same water body – river, lake or sea. In addition, the scarcity of clean fresh water makes water quality monitoring a global problem.
To date, ISO/TC 147 has developed 229 standards of which a number serve as the basis for national legislation on water quality control. The beneficiaries of its work include: state authorities and regulatory bodies; industries consuming water for processing; laboratories and consultants engaged in monitoring activities; construction companies, and citizens in general.
ISO/TC 224 was launched in 2001 to develop standards providing guidelines for service activates related to drinking water supply systems and wastewater sewerage systems. Thirty-one countries participate in its work, with another 18 as observers, and eight international or regional organizations, including ones representing consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises.
It is developing standards designed to help water authorities and operators to achieve water quality to meet the expectations of consumers and the principles of sustainable development.
Areas addressed by the standards will include quality assessment and performance indicators to measure the results of the services delivered and thus contribute to a better operation and management of the assets of the services. The standards will help contribute to water conservation by increasing the efficiency of water distribution services and reducing leakage in water service systems, thus preventing unnecessary water losses.
Three ISO/TC 224 documents on service activities relating to drinking water and wastewater are currently at the stage of Draft International Standard:
- ISO/DIS 24510 gives guidelines for the improvement and assessment of the service to users;
- ISO/DIS 24511 gives guidelines for the management of wastewater utilities and for the assessment of wastewater services, and
- ISO/DIS 24512 gives guidelines for the management of drinking water utilities and for the assessment of drinking water services.
The work of ISO/TC 147 and ISO/TC 224 will help to achieve the goals of the international community which, following the third World Water Forum in Kyoto in March 2003, committed to improving the governance of drinking water and wastewater services and to making it a priority to build capacity with local government.
ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden commented: "With more than a billion people worldwide lacking safe drinking water and more than two billion people lacking sanitation, ISO is working through its networks of national members and technical experts to help alleviate water scarcity and water quality problems through the development and promotion of International Standards and thus contribute to achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals."