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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 a methodology for understanding the implications of these long term changes for ecosystems, communities and businesses.

When considering key questions about water sustainability, some important technical problems such as scale and geographic patterns immediately arise. Certain kinds of measures and indicators may be good for tracking national level phenomena, but questions may arise about how this kind of data relates to smaller geographic areas within the nation. The first paper in this publication series entitled “Formulating Key Water Quality Indicators for Sustainable Water Resources Development” (Smith and Zhang, 2004 and 2004a) emphasizes the application of water sustainability framework to the water quality field. The objective of this second paper is to address the importance of scale issue and geographic patterns and how they may influence the formulation of key water sustainability indicators. By presenting statistics from which indicators are developed to be shown in graphical form, the paper highlights several available studies that have proved to be promising in generating concrete results for developing water sustainability indicators at various scale and geographic patterns.

It certainly appears that geographic scale has an influence on what kind of water indicators is used. Indicators that ensure sustainability at a national scale may or may not be effective at regional or local scales. The implications for further work in developing indicators would then be to continue to seek commonalities across geographic lines that can help to define the national level water indicators, and also to continue to examine in detail the various regional characteristics that may lead to developing water indicators unique to each region. Overall, 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

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864705783857199

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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