The GEMS/Water programme was founded as a global network for water quality monitoring in 1978. Under the auspices of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, GEMS involves the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and UNESCO. The programme has been restructured and reorganised in 2014.
The GEMS/Water Programme aims at improving water quality monitoring in freshwater ecosystems. The data and information on water quality provided by participating countries provide a global overview of the condition of water bodies and statements on changes and trends at global, regional and local levels.
In February 2011, the UNEP Governing Council called on the governments and organisations in the member states to participate in the GEMS/Water Programme. The first UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in July 2014 recommended GEMS/Water as a supporting mechanism to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Special focus is on sub-target 6.3, aiming at improving water quality, and the corresponding indicator 6.3.2.
The GEMS/Water Programme comprises the following elements:
- Global Programme Coordination Unit (GPCU)
GPCU, located at the UNEP Division of Early Warning (DEWA) in Nairobi/Kenya, is responsible for the overall coordination of the programme and for providing information to decision-makers.
- GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre (CDC)
- GEMS/Water Global Data Centre (DC)
The data centre of GEMS/Water is based on a treaty between UNEP and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. It is located at the Federal Institute of Hydrology in Koblenz.
- Regional Hubs
At the regional level, several Regional Hubs are planned to support the GEMS/Water Programme in communicating with the partners and in implementing programme activities especially in the field of capacity development in the individual regions. Currently, one Regional Hub for Latin America, the Caribbean and Portuguese-speaking countries has been established at the National Water Agency (ANA) of Brazil.
- Global Network
The worldwide GEMS/Water network currently comprises more than 80 countries with more than 3000 stations. The water quality data are provided by National Focal Points located at government authorities, and by Collaborating Focal Points from scientific and other institutions.