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Agenda 21 of the 1992 UN Earth Summit on Environment and Development called for the development of new ways to measure and assess progress toward sustainable development. The nation needs a framework for tracking and understanding changes to the health of its fresh and coastal waters, surface and groundwater, wetlands and watersheds. It also needs to a framework for understanding the sustainability of these changes long term for ecosystems, communities and businesses. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to provide an overview of the key water quality candidate indicators for sustainable water resources management and preliminary evaluation of their performance metrics.

This paper presents the inter-agency collaboration efforts by Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable (SWRR) (, which has begun the endeavor of developing sustainable water resources indicators. Key issues include: (1) what are the important questions to ask to determine the degree to which the nation is on a sustainable course in its use and management of water resources? (2) How can a set of indicators be developed that is large enough to be comprehensive, but small enough to be readily understandable and practical? Clearly, data gaps exist in order to answer these questions comprehensively, if the available statistics are compared to conceptual models of what is really needed to understand water resources as it relates to human and ecosystem requirements. However, it is now possible to begin to address the key problem of how to create measures of tracking by using analytical and statistical tools for voluminous data on water resources.

The long-term goals of SWRR include the development of principles, criteria and indicators to support decision-making and identification of opportunities for collaboration on research needs. The work of the Roundtable is just beginning. The sustainable solutions to water resources problems can be found if people thoroughly understand the issues and how each aspect of the society contributes to them.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

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