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Urban, agricultural, and environmental protection practices for sustainable water quality

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Sustainable water management often emphasizes water resource quantity, with focus on availability and use practices. However, only a subset of the available water may be usable when also considering water quality. Water quality management is examined within three broad sectors—urban, agriculture, and environmental systems—to investigate how water quality sustainability (WQS) is defined by each and across the three sectors. The definitions determined for both urban and agricultural WQS mention downstream human and ecosystem use; however, regulatory policy does not always support these definitions. This challenge of managing water quality locally and downstream, coupled with interactions across multiple sectors, has led to a fragmented approach to water quality management. Legislation typically divides water quality management into compartments without considering the entire system. Within the United States, there is an uneven distribution of responsibility regarding water quality protection, and notable policies which counteract efforts to improve water quality. The review suggests that despite a growing intention to use a single system approach where water is considered as a limited resource that must supply all competing interests, one does not yet exist and is even hindered by current policies and regulations. Recent policy is signaling a shift toward increasing interagency coordination; however, the basic definitions of WQS remain disconnected across sectors. It is the conclusion of this review that sustainable water quality is not currently practiced in the United States. WIREs Water 2017, 4:e1229. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1229 This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water > Water Governance Science of Water > Water Quality
Article search results from the Web of Science database highlighting the contribution of agriculture, urban, and ecosystem publications to the overall publication record on ‘sustainable + development + management’. The darker colors in each category are the returns including ‘water quality’ in the search.
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