Capacity challenges in water quality monitoring: understanding the role of human development

Sabrina Kirschke*, Tamara Avellán, Ilona Bärlund, Janos J. Bogardi, Laurence Carvalho, Deborah Chapman, Chris W.S. Dickens, Kenneth Irvine, Sung Bong Lee, Thomas Mehner, Stuart Warner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Monitoring the qualitative status of freshwaters is an important goal of the international community, as stated in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) indicator 6.3.2 on good ambient water quality. Monitoring data are, however, lacking in many countries, allegedly because of capacity challenges of less-developed countries. So far, however, the relationship between human development and capacity challenges for water quality monitoring have not been analysed systematically. This hinders the implementation of fine-tuned capacity development programmes for water quality monitoring. Against this background, this study takes a global perspective in analysing the link between human development and the capacity challenges countries face in their national water quality monitoring programmes. The analysis is based on the latest data on the human development index and an international online survey amongst experts from science and practice. Results provide evidence of a negative relationship between human development and the capacity challenges to meet SDG 6.3.2 monitoring requirements. This negative relationship increases along the course of the monitoring process, from defining the enabling environment, choosing parameters for the collection of field data, to the analytics and analysis of five commonly used parameters (DO, EC, pH, TP and TN). Our assessment can be used to help practitioners improve technical capacity development activities and to identify and target investment in capacity development for monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Article number298
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Capacity development
  • Global survey
  • Human development index
  • SDG 6
  • Water quality parameters


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