History and Mandate

The Global Environment Monitoring System for Water (GEMS/Water) was established in 1978 to collect world-wide water quality data for assessments of status and trends in global inland water quality. With the cooperation of participating countries, the programme is creating a unique global water quality monitoring network that provides water quality data to a central database known as GEMStat. It also provides support and encouragement to developing countries that wish to establish monitoring programmes and conduct assessments of water quality, through the provision of capacity development in the form of training, advice and assessment tools.

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and especially SDG 6 (“Clean Water and Sanitation”) the importance of water quality for human and ecosystem health has experienced increased attention again. Participation in the GEMS/Water Programme can support countries in their endeavor to monitor and report on their freshwater resources and realize evidence informed policies for their sound management.

In 2014, after more than 30 years of being successfully operated by the Department of the Environment of Canada, the GEMS/Water mandate was renewed and strengthened by the first universal United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). The Programme was restructured with new donors and three main operating Centres: a Global Programme Coordination Unit (GPCU) at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, a Data Centre in Germany and a Capacity Development Centre in Ireland. Regional activities are supported by Regional Hubs, such as the National Water Agency in Brazil.