Protocol on Water and Health

The Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes is the first and only international legal agreement linking sustainable water management and the prevention, control and reduction of water-related diseases in Europe.

The Protocol was adopted in 1999 at the Third Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in London and entered into force in 2005, becoming legally binding for the ratifying countries. To-date, 26 countries have ratified it, covering about 60% of the population of the WHO European Region.

The implementation of the Protocol requires an integrated approach and the alignment of policies and strategies in different sectors, ranging from health protection to environmental management, regional development, investment, infrastructures and education. This close cooperation between different sectors makes the Protocol unique.

By adopting the Protocol, countries agree to take all appropriate measures to:

  • ensure adequate supplies of wholesome drinking-water;
  • secure adequate sanitation of a standard that sufficiently protects human health and the environment;
  • protect water resources used as sources of drinking-water, and their related water ecosystems, from pollution;
  • provide adequate safeguards for human health against water-related diseases;
  • establish and maintain effective national and local surveillance and early warning systems for monitoring and responding to outbreaks or incidents of water-related diseases.

WHO/Europe and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) provide the joint secretariat to the Protocol and coordinate activities for its implementation.