It is abundantly evident among domain experts that human activities are profoundly shifting the health and functioning of freshwater ecosystems away from their natural state. Aquatic ecosystems are suffering biodiversity loss and increasingly act as a sink and conduit for anthropogenic pollution. The detailed extent and impact of this remain unclear due to major deficits in our capability, capacity, and willingness to adequately monitor ambient water quality at scale. To reverse this trend, and to understand our ability to restore and return ambient water bodies to a more sustainable baseline, we need to make a societal commitment to increase our monitoring of freshwaters globally. In this primer, we discuss the current status, gaps, and future needs for coordinated water monitoring programs. In the absence of sustained periodic monitoring, intervention, and management, the health of aquatic ecosystems and environments, and consequently our own health, prosperity, and well-being, will be permanently and irreversibly damaged.
One Earth, Volume 5, 18 February 2022,