Water quality assessment and management is one of the most important aspects of water management. This has attained significant global importance over the years in view of growing concerns and awareness on environment and health related impacts.
The National Water Policy adopted by the Government of India in 2002 has also given due importance to water quality. It emphasizes that improvements in existing strategies and innovation of new techniques resting on a strong science and technology base are needed to eliminate the pollution of surface and ground water resources in the country to improve water quality. The policy mentions that water resources development and management will have to be planned for a hydrological unit such as drainage basin as a whole or for a sub-basin, multi-sectorally, taking into account surface and ground water for sustainable use incorporating quantity and quality aspects as well as environmental considerations. The policy also calls for regular monitoring of both surface water and ground water quality; A phased programme for improvements in water quality; treatment of effluents to acceptable levels and standards before discharging them into natural streams; adoption of principle of 'polluter pays' in management of polluted water and formulation of necessary legislation for preservation of existing water bodies by preventing encroachment and deterioration of water quality. The Policy also indicates that the research efforts in various areas, including water quality needs to be intensified for effective and economical management of our water resources.
The National Environment Policy also took note of the deteriorating water quality of both surface and ground water. The policy recommends action plan for river basin which includes promotion of integrated approaches to management of river basin to ensure adherence to water quality standard throughout the river course in all seasons. It also recommends actions such as, taking up R&D schemes for developing cost effective techniques for removal of arsenic, fluoride and other toxic substances, identification of sites for dumping toxic waste material to prevent its movement to the ground water, encourage use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides in a manner which presents deterioration of water quality.
Water Quality aspects have also been mentioned in one of the targets of the Goal – 7 "Ensure Environment Sustainability" in the United Nation Millennium Development Goals. This proposed to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.