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News article15 September 20171 min read

JRC and global experts provide recommendations on the SDG indicator “water stress”

© EU, by Andreas Brink

In a new publication in Science of The Total Environment, JRC and leading global scientists in the field of water management identify 7 essential elements that should be considered in a water stress indicator. Although the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 6.4.2 on water stress considers these 7 elements, the authors point out that there is need for improvement, and give clear recommendations to address this need.

Water is an essential resource for providing the main three primary human needs of water, energy and food security. It is thus essential to achieving several of the SDGs. Competition for water will grow due to increasing world population, shifting lifestyles and climate change.

The 17 SDGs contain 169 targets, which are monitored using 230 indicators. SDG target 6.4 deals with the reduction of water scarcity. To monitor progress towards this target, two indicators are used: indicator 6.4.1, which measures water use efficiency, and indicator 6.4.2, which measures the level of water stress. This latter indicator (6.4.2) relates water use to availability.

© European Union, 2017

In this new publication, the authors identify the following as essential elements that should be considered in a water stress indicator:

  1. Gross versus net water abstraction
  2. Environmental flows (EF) or environmental flow requirements (EFR)
  3. Temporal scale
  4. Spatial resolution
  5. Surface water and groundwater
  6. Alternative water sources
  7. Reservoirs, water recycling and managed aquifer recharge

They conclude that indicator 6.4.2 considers these elements, but they also see some shortcomings for which they provide recommendations. As such, this publication can serve as a valuable input for the further definition of the SDG indicator on water stress and its actual monitoring.

Further information

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Publication date
15 September 2017