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Exploring the 'solution space' is key: SOLUTIONS recommends an early-stage assessment of options to protect and restore water quality against chemical pollution

Journal article
Authors L. Posthuma
Thomas Backhaus
J. Hollender
D. Bunke
W. Brack
C. Muller
J. van Gils
H. Hollert
J. Munthe
A. van Wezel
Published in Environmental Sciences Europe
Volume 31
Issue 1
ISSN 2190-4707
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Keywords surface waters, organic micropollutants, treatment plants, impact, risk, prevention, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, (European Commission), 2005, Overall Approach to the Classification of Ecological Status and, , 2003, Guidance Document No. 3. Analysis of Pressures and Impacts. EC, CIS-Working Group 2. 1
Subject categories Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources


Present evaluations of chemical pollution in European surface and groundwater bodies focus on problem description and chemical classification of water quality. Surprisingly, relatively low attention has been paid to solutions of chemical pollution problems when those are encountered. Based on evaluations of current practices and available approaches, we suggest that water quality protection, monitoring, assessment and management of chemical pollution can be improved by implementing an early-stage exploration of the 'solution space'. This follows from the innovative paradigm of solution-focused risk assessment, which was developed to improve the utility of risk assessments. The 'solution space' is defined as the set of potential activities that can be considered to protect or restore the water quality against hazards posed by chemical pollution. When using the paradigm, upfront exploration of solution options and selecting options that would be feasible given the local pollution context would result in comparative risk assessment outcomes. The comparative outcomes are useful for selecting optimal measures against chemical pollution for management prioritization and planning. It is recommended to apply the solution-focused risk assessment paradigm to improve the chemical pollution information for river basin management planning. To operationalize this, the present paper describes a still-growing database and strategy to find and select technical abatement and/or non-technical solution options for chemical pollution of surface waters. The solutions database and strategy can be applied to help prevent and reduce water quality problems. Various case studies show that implementing these can be effective, and how solution scenarios can be evaluated for their efficacy by comparative exposure and effect assessment.

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