|Water and Health in Europe (WHO, 1999, 70 pages)|
There are profound pressures on Europe's water resources that impact upon health, economy and sustainable development. Industrialisation, intensification of agriculture, growing populations and increases in recreational demands accentuate the necessity for a sufficient quantity of good quality water resources. Conflicts between uses and users coupled with the occurrence of natural disasters such as droughts and floods highlight the need for sustainable management of water. Universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation protective of human health and the environment is a primary concern in the pursuit of health and development. Nevertheless, water-related diseases occur throughout Europe to which rural populations, the socially excluded and populations in areas affected by armed hostilities are particularly vulnerable.
Although improvements have been made in some aspects of water quality and supply in some countries over the last decade, progress has been variable and the 1990s has been a decade of renewed emphasis on microbiological quality and acknowledgement of previously unrecognised and re-emerging microbiological and other hazards. Many of the suggested solutions are as applicable today as they were in 1989. However, major changes in administrative arrangements have affected many countries of Europe in the 1990s resulting in impacts on the supply of water and sanitation services, land-use activities, pollution control and public health surveillance-related activities.
In 1984 the Member states of WHO/EURO adopted a Health for All Policy. Target 20 of that Policy states that 'By the year 2000, all people should have access to adequate supplies of safe drinking water'. In the same time scale 'pollution of groundwater sources, rivers, lakes and seas should no longer pose a threat to health'. The European Union Fifth Environmental Action Programme of 1993 sets targets for groundwater protection up to 2000. These include the prevention of permanent overdraft and all pollution by point sources and reduction of diffuse source pollution. Water resources across Europe are shared and connected across national boundaries and therefore in order to sustain Europe's water resources and to provide safe water for its inhabitants it is necessary to promote international co-operation.
Partnerships and action are key themes of the Interministerial Conference, London, 1999. To this end WHO Regional Office for Europe in partnership with UN/ECE have prepared a new protocol to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. The protocol requires signatories to take account of human health, water resources and sustainable development. Water Resources and Human Health in Europe' provides information on many of the issues covered by the draft protocol such as adequate supplies of drinking water and sanitation, water for irrigation and recreational use, monitoring of hazards and public participation in decision-making. The evidence presented in this publication was collected through an, extensive co-ordinated data-gathering process in which many organisations and individuals throughout the European Region have co-operated.
This publication is the second in a planned series of joint productions by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and WHO Regional Office for Europe concerned with the environment and health. It takes forward some of the issues raised in the first publication Environment and Health 1, Overview and Main European Issues' which highlighted the importance of the quality and availability of water in improving health effects. It is aimed at a broad readership and is intended to present the key issues in a format that can be appreciated by policy-makers, sector professionals and the general public alike.
The twenty-first century will no doubt present a number of challenges in the water environment. A co-ordinated approach to data collection, processing and management in Europe to support decision-making and to improve the reliability of environmental information will be essential to meet these challenges. We look forward to continuing successful co-operation between WHO and EEA into the year 2000 and beyond.