Science & Research

Global Water Quality Database Goes Online

UNEP’s Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) Water Programme launches GEMStat: a new online searchable database of global water quality data and statistics.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through its GEMS/Water Programme, is contributing to World Water Day 2005 with a new scientific resource called GEMStat, dedicated to providing environmental water quality data and information of the highest integrity, accessibility and interoperability. These data serve to strengthen the scientific basis for global and regional water assessments, indicators and early warning. GEMStat is designed to share surface and ground water quality data sets collected from the GEMS/Water Global Network, including over 1,500 stations, two million records, and over 100 parameters.

GEMStat is one of four key results of UNEP’s “Great Water Quality Data Drive” kicked-off with World Environment Day 2004:

  • — a new searchable database of global water quality data and statistics
  • new data and information sources, such as metadata, BOD, pathogens, POPs, nitrogen and phosphorus, suspended solids and sediment quality
  • renewed focus on groundwater data and monitoring as a regional and global priority
  • integration of alternate technology: from indigenous knowledge to remote sensing.

Data from all types of inland aquatic environments are important for global water assessment. These include surface waters such as lakes, reservoirs, streams, rivers, estuaries, and wetlands; and groundwater aquifers. All data are subject to standard data integrity review processes.

Dr. Richard Robarts, GEMS/Water’s director, reminds that GEMStat is just the beginning. “Our focus is on building our global water quality data and information sources over the next ten years, so that the whole international community can benefit through better decisions being taken to manage all water resources.”

UNEP’s GEMS/Water Programme is mandated to collect data and information on inland water quality for environmental assessments at regional and global levels. These water quality data cover both surface and groundwater resources. However, there are many gaps that need to be filled, especially in terms of geospatial and temporal coverage. The current state of data distribution was featured in the 2004 UNEP Annual Report and specific details are reported country-by-country in the 2004 State of the GEMS/Water Global Network and Annual Report.

GEMStat is accessible at, and user feedback and data submissions are invited.

What does GEMS/Water do?

Since its establishment in 1978, UNEP’s Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) Water Programme has become the primary source for global environmental water quality data. It is a multi-faceted water science centre oriented towards knowledge development on inland quality issues throughout the world.

Major activities include monitoring, assessment and capacity building. The twin goals of the programme are to improve water quality monitoring and assessment capabilities in participating countries, and to determine the status and trends of regional and global water quality.

These goals are implemented through the GEMS/Water data bank, including water quality data and information from more than 106 countries, with over two million entries for lakes, reservoirs, rivers and groundwater systems.

By compiling a global database, GEMS/Water adds value to country-level data by contributing to global and regional water quality assessments. The programme also carries out evaluations on a range of water quality issues and methodologies. GEMS/Water data have been used by other organizations, including the UN system and universities around the world.

Contact & Information:

Dr. Richard D. Robarts
Director, UN GEMS/Water Programme,
867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington,
Ontario, L7R 4A6, Canada,
tel: + 1 306 975 6047
fax: + 1 306 975 5143

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