The UN Environment GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre, based at UCC’s Environmental Research Institute, was founded in 2015 to provide global capacity development in water quality monitoring and assessment. The importance of good quality freshwater for health and development have recently been highlighted by the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals. The Centre is working on a programme of activities that will support this Agenda.
GEMS/Water is a unique global water quality monitoring network operating in 125 countries around the world and providing water quality data to a central database known as GEMStat. GEMS/Water was established in 1978 in response to a recommendation made at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment as an interagency programme under the auspices of the United Nations through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was implemented through the WHO at the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) in Burlington, Canada.
After three decades the programme still continues to provide data for assessments of status and trends in global inland water quality and has strengthened monitoring capacity and encouraged assessment and management of water resources in developing countries. For 35 years the Government of Canada (Environment Canada) hosted a secretariat and the global database GEMStat at the NWRI. In March 2014, the programme was transferred to back to UNEP and the German Government through its Federal Institute of Hydrology took over support of GEMStat and, in November 2014, the Government of Ireland, through the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and Irish Aid, took over support for the capacity development element of the programme.
The GEMS/Water programme is still in a transition phase, with the establishment of Regional Hubs to support and encourage data generation through the establishment of monitoring networks and capacity development as required. Currently, one Regional Hub has been established, at the National Water Agency in Brazil, for the Latin American and Caribbean region and Portuguese speaking countries. The GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre will work closely with these Regional Hubs as they become established.
The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has endorsed the importance of water in Goal 6 which aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Specifically, Target 6.3 aims to improve water quality by 2030. Monitoring progress towards achievement of this target will require indicators based on measurements obtained by water quality monitoring activities. The GEMS/Water Programme was endorsed by the United Nations Environment Assembly during its first session in June 2014 as being one of the mechanisms that will assist in meeting the above-mentioned water targets by providing reliable water quality data and information.
See the video below for an overview of the Centre’s activities. More information can be found on the Centre’s website.