On July 25-26, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) held an international workshop focused on global water issues in Kobe, Japan. The workshop - hosted by the Japanese Standards Association (JSA) and titled "Global water challenges - How can ISO standards help?" - was attended by more than 150 participants and was held in conjunction with Kobe's July 24-27 Sewage Works Exhibition. Following up on a 2011 examination of water issues by the ISO Council Standing Committee on Strategies (ISO CSC/STRAT), the workshop featured remarks from experts in the fields of water sustainability, water and waste treatment, and water crisis management, as well as significant discussion between participants.
Nearly 900 million people worldwide do not have regular access to clean drinking water, a problem that contributes to the annual deaths of more than 1.5 million children younger than five from waterborne and sanitation-related infections. Improved hygiene and sanitation connected to better water management is thought to have the potential to prevent at least 6% of global annual deaths.
More than 550 of ISO's more than 19,000 International Standards directly relate to water, and one of the goals of the workshop was to raise awareness of water-related standardization. Workshop participants discussed proposed standardization initiatives linked to water issues and worked toward development of an ISO action plan for development of needed standards in the area. The workshop identified 14 general areas for possible ISO action and prioritized the creation of new standards related to the following categories:
Other categories highlighted by the workshop for possible new standards include storm water management, watershed management, and water-related asset management.
During the workshop, Kevin McKinley, ISO deputy secretary-general, said, "ISO standards play a primary role in promoting access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and assist improved governance at all levels." Mr. McKinley expressed confidence that current water-related challenges could be effectively responded to "through the use of leading, optimized technologies, improved water infrastructures and equipment, reliable analyses and methods, good industrial practices, and leading approaches to processes, systems, and management."
ISO's Implementation Task Force on Water, which is charged with integrating the priorities set at the workshop with ISO Council recommendations, will hold a webinar in late September to further develop ideas discussed during the workshop and is expected to deliver its final report to the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB) in February 2013. As the official U.S. member of ISO, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) encourages comments on ISO's water initiative. All relevant comments and responses must be sent to Steven Cornish, ANSI director of international policy (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday, September 21, 2012.