Freshwater Quality in the Agenda 2030

Water and sanitation feature prominently in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, through the dedicated Goal 6 (“Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”) but also through the cross-cutting nature of water and its interlinkages with poverty, food security, health, sustainable production systems and many others. In order to be able to track the progress towards achieving the SDGs it was recognized that the water sector required a coherent monitoring framework, with improved data collection and analysis.

The UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) as well as UN-Water’s Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) cover drinking water and sanitation (SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2). In order to complement JMP and GLAAS and cover the SDG targets 6.3 to. 6.6 the Integrated Monitoring initiative GEMI was established in 2014 as an inter-agency initiative composed of UN Environment, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), operating under the UN-Water umbrella.

SDG 6 targets:

  • 6.1: Achieve access to safe drinking water for all
  • 6.2: Access to equitable sanitation and hygiene
  • 6.3: Improve water quality
  • 6.4: Increase water-use efficiency
  • 6.5: Implement IWRM at all levels
  • 6.6: Protect and restore water-related ecosystems
  • 6.a: Expand international cooperation and capacity support
  • 6.b: Support participation of local communities

SDG target 6.3 covers ambient freshwater quality (i.e. in rivers, lakes and groundwater), especially with indicator 6.3.2: “Proportion of water bodies with good water quality.” Water quality also is incorporated into indicator 6.6.1: “Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems.”  Within UN Environment GEMS/Water was identified as being the mechanism to support countries to fulfill their reporting obligations with regard to freshwater quality within the framework of the 2030 Agenda. GEMS/Water can help countries with:

  • Training and support for ambient water quality monitoring network development and implementation
  • Help and advice in selecting target values
  • Data handling, reporting and visualisation