Perspectives on Environmental Monitoring

  • Richard D. Robarts
  • Andrew S. Fraser
  • Kelly M. Hodgson
  • Guy M. Paquette
  • Jean-Jacques Frenette
  • Warwick F. Vincent
  • Reinhard Pienitz


Evaluation and assessment of fresh and inland water quality at the regional and global scales is not a simple task. UNEPs GEMS/Water has operated a comprehensive freshwater quality monitoring and assessment programme for over 20 years and is the only such global programme. GEMS/Water operates by inviting national governments to provide water quality data from their water quality monitoring programmes. The data is then compiled into a global database, GLOWDAT, which is a value-added process. GEMS/Water, United Nations agencies and other international organizations use the data to undertake global and regional scale water quality assessments. More than 100 countries participate in the programme that has a database of>1.6 million data entries. Participating countries control, for example, the type of data collected, the location of sampling sites, the frequency of monitoring, the analytical and field methods used and the frequency at which data is transferred to GEMS/Water. In order to make effective water quality assessments, identify emerging water quality issues and environmental ‘hotspots’, the data available must be of good quality, comparable between countries for a specific parameter, be geographically representative for a given region and be up-to-date. The only way for GEMS/Water to ensure that all these characteristics are satisfied in GLOWDAT would be for GEMS/Water to operate its own global water quality-monitoring programme. This is economically unfeasible. However, GEMS/Water has an operational manual, a modular training course and operates a QA/QC programme to help countries with data quality. Some countries have modernized their water quality programme, a complex and comprehensive activity that includes legal and institutional considerations, technical issues, and a strategic program of capacity building. Implementation of such comprehensive programmes in more countries will lead to better quality data for GEMS/Water.


Water Quality Littoral Zone United Nations Environment Programme Water Quality Monitoring Colored Dissolve Organic Matter 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Tokyo 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard D. Robarts
    • 1
  • Andrew S. Fraser
    • 2
  • Kelly M. Hodgson
    • 2
  • Guy M. Paquette
    • 2
  • Jean-Jacques Frenette
    • 3
  • Warwick F. Vincent
    • 4
    • 5
  • Reinhard Pienitz
    • 5
  1. 1.UNEP GEMS/Water Programme OfficeEnvironment CanadaSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.UNEP GEMS/Water Programme OfficeEnvironment CanadaBurlingtonCanada
  3. 3.Département de Chimie-BiologieUniversité du Québec à Trois-RivièresTrois-RivièresCanada
  4. 4.Département de BiologieUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  5. 5.Centre d’études nordiquesUniversité LavalQuébecCanada

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