Global Water Quality Data and Statistics for Inland Waters – The UNEP GEMS/Water Programme
Richard D. Robarts1, Kelly M. Hodgson2, Yvonne Stokker2
1UNEP GEMS/Water Programme, c/o Environment Canada, Saskatoon, SK, Canada; 2UNEP GEMS/Water Programme, c/o Environment Canada, Burlington, ON, Canada; 3UNEP GEMS/Water Programme, c/o Environment Canada, Burlington, ON, Canada

Evaluation and assessment of inland surface and subsurface water quality at regional and global scales are not simple tasks. UNEP GEMS/Water has operated a comprehensive freshwater quality monitoring and assessment programme for over 30 years and is the only such global programme. Historically, country representatives provided monitoring data from their national water quality monitoring programmes. Today, data contributions are also accepted from NGOs for research and assessment activities by the international water community. The data are compiled into GEMStat, a global database which houses >4 million data points. GEMS/Water, United Nations agencies and other international organizations use the data for global and regional scale water quality assessments and to assess the effectiveness of multilateral and other agreements. The 100+ countries that participate in GEMS/Water control the type of data collected, location of sampling sites, frequency of monitoring, analytical and field methods used, and the frequency at which data are transferred to GEMS/Water. For effective assessments and to identify emerging water quality issues, data must be of good quality, up-to-date, comparable between countries, as well as geographically representative for a given region. To ensure that all these characteristics are satisfied in GEMStat, GEMS/Water has a comprehensive QA/QC programme to help countries with data quality. In addition, users can access and submit data through an interactive website ( and generate statistical tables and a variety of graphical outputs. Finally, using hydrological data from the Global Data Runoff Centre (GRDC), it is possible to calculate fluxes of nutrients and other waterborne constituents to near-shore marine environments or lakes.

Keywords: Global water database; Water quality data; Water pollution; Inland water quality

Biography: Richard Robarts is Director of the UNEP GEMS/Water Programme for global water quality monitoring and assessment. He is an aquatic microbial ecologist with a B.Sc. in zoology, a M.Sc. in microbiology and a Ph.D. in limnology. Richard is a member of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the World Cultural Council (Albert Einstein World Award (Science)), and of 16 other international scientific advisory bodies. He has done research in regions extending from the Arctic to the sub-Antarctic, including 14 years spent in Africa. His current research interests centre on environmental issues affecting Russian inland waters.