Monitoring SDG6 on water and sanitation

Indicator 6.6.1 – Water-related ecosystems

Target 6.6 seeks to protect and restore ecosystems – this page explains why and how to monitor progress towards the target, and what resources that are available for countries to do so.

Indicator 6.6.1 tracks changes over time in:

  • Spatial extent of water-related ecosystems and inland open waters
  • Quantity of water in ecosystems
  • Quality of water in ecosystems (see indicator 6.3.2)

It is also recommended that countries incorporate a component on ecosystem health in their ecosystem monitoring programme, which is commonly measured through biological indicators. The point of reference for “change over time” is the natural condition, i.e. before large-scale impacts were experienced by the ecosystem.

Photo credit: Forest Service Northern Region, Creative Commons Attribution

How to progressively monitor?

Data for indicator 6.6.1 are likely collected by the Ministry of Environment or Water, but also by NGOs and in academia, and in the case of Earth observations, by space agencies.

In terms of progressive monitoring, countries can initially focus on surface water-related ecosystems, for example, vegetated wetlands and open water bodies, measuring the spatial extent, quantity and quality of water. Over time, countries can expand to also cover groundwater bodies and increasingly ground-based verification and interpretation of the Earth observations that formed part of the spatial extent assessment.

The monitoring of ecosystem health, such as looking at macroinvertebrates or fish species, would also follow as country capacity and resources increase.

Ecosystem monitoring, including that of ecosystem health, highlights the need to protect and conserve ecosystems and enables policy- and decision makers to set de facto management objectives. Well disaggregated data helps to identify ecosystems at risk and to direct interventions where they will have the greatest impact.

The United Nations Environment Programme compiles country data on indicator 6.6.1 and supports countries in their monitoring efforts.