Sharing Knowledge Across Borders

Global Data on Water

© BafG
© BafG

Germany contributes at a number of levels to research cooperation on global water resources. Important examples in this regard are the global databases managed by German institutions: the "Global Runoff Data Centre" (GRDC) and the "Global Precipitation Climatology Centre" (GPCC), both under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as well as the water quality database GEMStat, which is part of the Global Environment Monitoring System on Water (GEMS/Water) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


The "Global Runoff Data Centre" (GRDC) gathers runoff data, i.e. data on the quantity of water flowing at a particular location on a river at a particular time. The database is operated by the Federal Institute of Hydrology in Koblenz since 1988 and consists of data from gauging stations of almost 9,000 rivers worldwide. When tToday this unique database is used by researchers from all over the world as well as various UN agencies.


Data on the quality of ground and surface waters are made available by the continuously growing water quality database GEMStat. Currently, it collects data from more than 3,500 stations worldwide providing over 3,5 million measured values from more than 255 parameters. In addition, GEMStat also provides statistical analyses and thematic maps. Since 2015 the database operates is operated by the International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change (ICWRGC) in Koblenz, Germany.

The "Global Precipitation Climatology Centre" (GPCC), in turn, operated by the German National Meteorological Service, collects rainfall data from 6,500 monitoring stations worldwide. These data constitute an essential basis for modelling and predictions regarding the impacts of climate change.

Well-established Cooperation Along the Danube River

© BafG
© BafG

The Danube is Europe’s second-longest river, after the Volga River, its 2,857 kilometers shared between 10 riparian countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. Its overall drainage basin even extends into 19 countries.

Under UNESCO patronage research cooperation between the riparian states of the Danube was initiated already in 1961 during the Cold War, focusing for example on basic hydrological research and forecasts.                                                  


In 1998, the Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable use of the Danube River entered into force, to date ratified by 14 countries and the European Union. It established the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) which has grown into one of the largest and most active networks of water expertise in Europe. Building upon regulations such as the EU Water Framework Directive, the ICPDR monitors the quality of water bodies in the whole Danube River Basin, develops strategies for flood protection and pollution monitoring, defining emission standards and ensuring the compliance of the member states.


Other cooperation agreements in the Danube basin date even further back:


• the Danube Commission, based on the 1948 Convention regarding the Regime of Navigation on the Danube, as well as

• the International Association for Danube Research (IAD), founded in 1956.

Global Efforts

© Sandia National Laboratories
© Sandia National Laboratories

Altogether 31 programmes and specialized agencies of the United Nations deal with different aspects of water. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for example, supports farmers in improving the efficiency of their water use.

Poverty reduction, enhanced agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability are the guiding principles of all FAO activities.


The water-related FAO projects aim at improving global agricultural performance while promoting sustainable water use. Within the framework of the project “Adapting irrigation to climate change” (AICCA) the FAO supports the adaption of small-scale irrigation systems to climate change impacts in four West and central African pilot countries. Other projects focus on key issues such as water quality, multiple use of water, as well as the water, energy and food security nexus. FAO has extensive databases like AQUASTAT available for monitoring and developing water management strategies at local, national and global level.

Further UN organizations, such as the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) or the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), address water issues from their corresponding perspectives. In order to coordinate the activities of the various UN organizations, UN-Water was established in 2003. a. However, as the final report of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) published in 2015 concludes, the UN water architecture is too fragmented to allow for an effective implementation of the water-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.