Monitoring SDG6 on water and sanitation



In approaching the 2030 Agenda with a dedicated goal on water and sanitation, it was recognized that the sector at large would require a coherent monitoring framework, with improved data collection and analysis. JMP and GLAAS were already tracking progress for drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2, and part of 6.a and 6.b), but the many initiatives that monitored different aspects of the management of water, wastewater and ecosystem resources (SDG targets 6.3 to 6.6) lacked a coherent global mechanism.

Photo credit: Lahirjairams, Creative Commons Attribution

To meet this need, GEMI was established in 2014 as an inter-agency initiative composed of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


GEMI’s focus is to integrate and expand existing monitoring efforts on wastewater treatment (SDG indicator 6.3.1) and water quality (6.3.2), water use (6.4.1) and scarcity (6.4.2), integrated water resources management (6.5.1) including transboundary cooperation (6.5.2) and water-related ecosystems (6.6.1).

Since these indicators are new at the global scale, they are associated with a great need for awareness-raising and capacity building at all levels.

Some examples of existing monitoring initiatives to be integrated include:

  • FAO AQUASTAT system, which has been operational since 1994 and has been collecting country-based data and information on water resources and their use on the global scale since 1961
  • UN Environment Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS), which gathers ambient water quality data from more than 4 000 sampling stations worldwide, with records starting in 1965
  • UN-Water IWRM status reporting
  • Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme and the reporting under the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes


GEMI is an integral part of SDG 6 monitoring, and its implementation will be harmonized with that of JMP and GLAAS, as part of the UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6. However, where JMP and GLAAS already have many years of experience, GEMI is a newly developed framework that will require additional support in its initial stages.

The first phase of GEMI implementation (2015–2018) focuses on the development of monitoring methodologies and other support tools (including pilot testing), a global rollout of SDG 6 monitoring and associated capacity building efforts, as well as the establishment of a global baseline for SDG targets 6.3 to 6.6.