Water quality guidelines for chemicals: learning lessons to deliver meaningful environmental metrics
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- Merrington, G., An, YJ., Grist, E.P.M. et al. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2014) 21: 6. doi:10.1007/s11356-013-1732-8
Many jurisdictions around the globe have well-developed regulatory frameworks for the derivation and implementation of water quality guidelines (WQGs) or their equivalent (e.g. environmental quality standards, criteria, objectives or limits). However, a great many more still do not have such frameworks and are looking to introduce practical methods to manage chemical exposures in aquatic ecosystems. There is a potential opportunity for learning and sharing of data and information between experts from different jurisdictions in order to deliver efficient and effective methods to manage potential aquatic risks, including the considerable reduction in the need for aquatic toxicity testing and the rapid identification of common challenges. This paper reports the outputs of an international workshop with representatives from 14 countries held in Hong Kong in December 2011. The aim of the workshop and this paper was to identify ‘good practice’ in the development of WQGs to deliver to a range of environmental management goals. However, it is important to broaden this consideration to cover often overlooked facets of implementable WQGs, such as demonstrable field validation (i.e. does the WQG protect what it is supposed to?), fit for purpose of monitoring frameworks (often an on-going cost) and finally how are these monitoring data used to support management decisions in a manner that is transparent and understandable to stakeholders. It is clear that regulators and the regulated community have numerous pressures and constraints on their resources. Therefore, the final section of this paper addresses potential areas of collaboration and harmonisation. Such approaches could deliver a consistent foundation from which to assess potential chemical aquatic risks, including, for example, the adoption of bioavailability-based approaches for metals, whilst reducing administrative and technical burdens in jurisdictions.