Ireland Becomes a Hub for Water Quality Monitoring Excellence with the Opening of New UNEP GEMS/Water Centre Wed, Jan 27, 2016

The first-ever UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) held in June 2014 highlighted the importance of GEMS/Water in advancing the water-related targets of the SDGs.

L-R: Prof. John O'Halloran, UCC Vice President for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Deborah V Chapman, Head of Discipline of Environmental Science, Director UNEP GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre, Dr Hartwig Kremer, Senior Programme Officer, United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Early Warning and Assessment, Cian Ó Lionáin, Principal, Water Quality Section, Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, Dr Michael Murphy, President of UCC

The United Nations Environment Programme's Global Environmental Monitoring System, Water (UNEP GEMS/Water) has inaugurated, Friday, its new Capacity Development Centre, which will be hosted by the University College Cork (UCC), Ireland. The new Centre will help developing countries to boost the capacity for meeting their water challenges.

Freshwater scarcity and quality deterioration rank among the most urgent environmental challenges of this century. According to UN Water, Earth is facing a 40 per cent shortfall in water supply by 2030, unless we dramatically improve its management.

Only around 1 per cent of the world's fresh water is easily accessible, but it is not evenly distributed around the world and is vulnerable to contamination from human activities. The longstanding concept that freshwater is a renewable resource is now compromised by the ongoing deterioration of water quality, leading to the degradation of aquatic ecosystems on which human health, livelihoods and development depend.

Dr. Deborah V. Chapman, Director of the new UNEP GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre at UCC said, "When Ireland was approached as a potential new donor for the programme in 2013, I could see the potential for the Centre and its partners to make an important contribution to sustainable management of water resources at the global scale. After two years of negotiations, Ireland, UCC and its partners are now key to the new phase of the UNEP GEMS/Water Programme."

GEMS/Water, which had been hosted and supported by Environment Canada until 2014, transitioned to new partners for its second phase, which is expected to be instrumental in the new Agenda 2030. In addition to the newly opened Centre in Cork, the German Federal Institute for Hydrology hosts the GEMS/Water Data Centre, maintaining the global water quality information system, GEMStat, designed to share water quality data collected from the GEMS/Water Global Network.

"There have been major developments in approaches to water quality monitoring and assessment over the last few decades and we will be bringing UNEP GEMS/Water up-to-date by using e-learning technology for training and education programmes that will equip developing countries with the knowledge to make use of the latest approaches to monitoring and managing water quality," said Dr. Chapman.

The recently adopted universal Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) on water and sanitation aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. UNEP GEMS/Water will play a key role in delivering on that objective. Its primary aim is to ensure compatibility and comparability of water quality data for use in national, regional and global assessments and management.

The first-ever UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) held in June 2014 highlighted the importance of GEMS/Water in advancing the water-related targets of the SDGs and called for its strengthening to prepare it for the new role of a reliable global freshwater monitoring and information system.

UNEP representative, Dr Hartwig Kremer, and Dr Chapman expressed gratitude to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and Irish Aid for "having the vision to support UNEP in bringing GEMS/Water into a new phase that will contribute to meeting the challenges of the sustainable development agenda and national water management."

The GEMS/Water data and capacity building network will continue expanding, to inform the global water resources management, with specific focus on developing countries, particularly in Africa. GEMS will work with regional hubs to generate momentum locally and attract new members. The first regional hub ? for the Latin America and Caribbean region ? is already operational and is hosted by the national water agency, ANA, in Brazil.


About UNEP GEMS/ Water

GEMS/Water is a global programme of the United Nations under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In its new phase, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) among others are contributing to the Steering Committee.

GEMS/Water was established in 1978 to create a unique global water quality monitoring network providing water quality data to a central database known as GEMStat, which, together with a set of capacity building modules, was developed with support from and hosted by the Canadian Government.

In addition to collecting water quality data, GEMS/Water provides support and encouragement to developing countries that wish to establish monitoring programmes and conduct assessments of water quality through training, advice and provision of assessment tools.

Currently undergoing revision, UNEP GEMS/Water has received a consolidated global and refined mandate by the first universal UN Environment Assembly UNEA (Resolution 1/9) in 2014.

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