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UNESCO World Water Quality Portal


The portal was conceptualized and developed in the framework of the International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ) of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) of UNESCO.

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The demonstration phase of the UNESCO World Water Quality Portal was implemented in 2015-2018.

During this phase, the approach of water quality monitoring through satellite Earth Observation was trialled to experimental (uncalibrated) monitoring of five water quality indicators for the year of 2016 in selected river basins in world’s different regions such as:

  • Lake Sevan in the Caucasus highlands (Armenia and Azerbaijan);
  • Itaipu Reservoir and Parana River Basin (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay);
  • The Mecklenburg Lake Plateau (Germany);
  • River Nile and Aswan Reservoir (Egypt and Sudan);
  • The Mekong Delta (Vietnam); the Florida Lakes (USA); and
  • Zambezi River Basin (Zambia and Zimbabwe).

The UNESCO exhibition “Water Quality from Space - Mesmerizing Images of Earth Observation” was shown at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in January 2018 to presents results of the demonstration phase of the Portal. The exhibition featured a collection of Earth observation images, displaying the state of water quality in major rivers, lakes, reservoirs and coastal deltas around the world. Hence, it drew attention to the importance of good water quality in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The demonstration phase highlighted the benefits and potential of Earth observation by satellite as an innovative approach to water quality monitoring.


The operational applications of the UNESCO World Water Quality Portal in world’s basins aim to support basin organizations and national water and environment agencies for improved water quality monitoring towards sustainable water resources management. Its objective is to support basin organizations to better understand the water quality and ecological state of water resources, monitor the trend and evolution of water quality and pollution, and assess anthropogenic and climate change impacts on water resources. It consequently contributes to science-based policy-making and management decisions to protect and improve water quality.

It also aims to support national-level efforts towards the achievement of the SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation (specifically, Target 6.3 on water quality, Target 6.6 on water-related ecosystems) and SDG 15: Life on land (Target 15.1 on terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems).

The portal also contributes to human health, ecological preservation, sustainable development, economic activities and peace by promoting open access to water quality information to local communities, whose livelihoods depend on water resources and on their water quality and availability. Maintaining good water quality is therefore essential to preserve livelihoods and to protect the health of local communities.

The Portal, furthermore, promotes research and strengthens the scientific base on innovative approaches to water quality monitoring, by showcasing and demonstrating the potential of remote sensing and satellite Earth Observation to improve water quality monitoring towards sustainable water resources management.

The Portal also contributes to awareness raising of the public at large and everyone beyond the boundaries of the basin on water quality.

Scientific partners

UNESCO IHP’s International Initiative on Water Quality collaborates with the following scientific organizations, who provide the scientific and technical expertise necessary for the development of the UNESCO World Water Quality Portal and its applications to world’s basins:

  • French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) through its Surface Water Ocean Topography Mission (SWOT) Programme
  • French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD)
  • French Biodiversity Agency (OFB)
  • French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE)
  • Magellium for the development of the interactive web-based platform of the Portal



Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa
Programme Specialist
International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ)
Division of Water Sciences - Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP)



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