May 27, 2022

Research Tools: Google, European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and UN Environment Unveil Freshwater Monitoring App

From UN Environment:

UN Environment, Google and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre have unveiled a groundbreaking web-based platform that fuses big data and environmental science to monitor global freshwater ecosystems, opening the door to a new era of data-rich analysis that could reshape how we measure humanity’s environmental footprint.

The publicly available, free platform brings together the Joint Research Centre’s expertise in satellite data and data analysis, Google’s cloud computing and artificial intelligence and UN Environment’s scientific knowledge, to show how water ecosystems are changing over time.


A lack of reliable, consistent and comparable data has often stymied those seeking to implement real-time environmental action. Critical data gaps can delay action, not only on the environment but also on wider development issues, making it difficult to draft effective policies.

The new platform uses a data mining algorithm—Global Surface Water Explorer—developed by the European Commission Joint Research Centre. Andreas Brink, senior scientist at the centre, told the forum it would support more informed decision-making.


Using the algorithm and through collaboration with Google, it was possible to create a web-based interface that shows 35 years of water history, including information for every month, he said.

“The data is fully open and transparent, and it is also guaranteed for the next 10 to 20 years at least… It is not only fully validated but fully reviewed… It is the example of how remote sensing can support the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

Initially, the project will focus on freshwater ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes. These areas account for 0.01 per cent of the world’s water but provide habitat for almost 10 per cent of known species and there is mounting evidence that there has been a rapid loss in freshwater biodiversity.

By providing satellite images accompanied by downloadable statistical data and trend analysis, the platform can help Member States understand changes occurring in the spatial extent of open water bodies; identify new or lost water bodies; and identify where changes are happening to seasonal water bodies. It is hoped to expand the project to air quality and oceans, among other sustainable development topics, in the future.

Read the Complete Launch Announcement

Direct to New Web-Based Freshwater Data Platform 

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.