WWAP Expert Group on Indicators, Monitoring and Databases

To support WWAP and the work of the UN-Water Task Force on Indicators, Monitoring and Reporting (see above), WWAP established in 2008 an Expert Group on Indicators, Monitoring and Databases to identify the key dimensions and indicators of water resources and their management as well as the work required to be able to produce such indicators on an ongoing basis.


The Expert Group was inter alia tasked to:

  1. Preparing a short list of key dimensions and indicators
  2. Drafting a proposal on the future work required to report on a useful, feasible and sustainable set of indicators on key water resources issues on an ongoing basis.


After a structured review of the issues, the conclusion reached was that, given the many different interests of decision makers and managers, the principal challenge in the field of monitoring water resources at global, regional and national level is not the identification of a set of key indicators for water resources and their management.

It is rather the systematic generation of a set of core data items that will allow a wide range of such indicators to be calculated to meet the many different needs of the potential audiences.

Proposed indicators

About the resource

  • Water resource availability (Total Available Renewable Water Resources - TARWR) on regular basis, at seasonal, annual and long term average time frames.
  • Storage in the system:
    • Ideally, both surface reservoirs and groundwater;
    • Within that, data that could indicate depletion on an annual and long term basis.
  • Precipitation data on similar time frames:
  • Ideally, the division of that precipitation (as runoff, infiltration, Evapotranspitation) to be able to determine
    • "conversion ratio";
    • "Green water";
    • Soil storage (assuming that it is not possible to monitor both saturated and unsaturated zone).
  • Environmental quality measure (seasonal, annual and long term average), one of
    • Salinity;
    • COD;
    • Eutrophication (using a remote sensing base for definition);
    • Freshwater species.

About use:

  • Use by abstraction by main sector (at least agriculture, industry and urban domestic/household).
  • Use by source (at least by groundwater versus surface water).
  • It would also be desirable for policy purposes to be able to provide:
    • Agricultural and forestry use of water ET (Evapo-transpiration) from precipitation (green water);
    • Water flows used for the production of hydropower (in cascading systems this could be difficult to define, perhaps the largest flow at the end of a system);
    • Water flows reserved for environmental purposes (wetlands, lakes and rivers);
    • Water flows required to maintain navigation.

About governance:

  • The budget of governments and public institutions on water resource management as opposed to water infrastructure investment and operation) as a % of total budget.
  • An assessment of the quality of WRM (by a review / verification process). 

About performance:

  • Proportion of urban wastewater treated/capacity for treatment.
  • Average cost of water resource supply (as a proxy, the average price paid for "bulk raw water"). 

Proposed programme to mobilise information

Currently, many of these data items are not reliably or systematically collected, which makes it difficult to generate any useful indicators on a regular and comparable basis. This constrains the monitoring of significant dimensions of performance and of trends in the water resource sector.

It is therefore recommended that WWAP should, in execution of its mandate, undertake a programme of work with appropriate partners to generate a limited set of such data items on a regular and systematic basis. This should be done in collaboration with the work of the UN Statistical Division to standardise and systematise national water accounting and reporting systems.

By adopting this strategy, WWAP would be emulating the successful approach of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme which has transformed the approach to water supply and sanitation coverage information and generates information which is widely accepted and used by policy makers and managers at global, regional and national level.

A separate recommendation is made in respect of indicators of water resource governance at national level. During the proceedings of the Expert Group, it was noted that the highly context specific nature of water resource management, the greatly varying extent of water use and the necessarily different management responses within different systems of public administration render a "checklist" type of assessment of water governance inappropriate. It was therefore recommended that a country assessment approach be developed based on peer reviews undertaken at a regional level and that WWAP should work with partners to further develop this approach, which has already been piloted in a number of regions.

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