Here you can find data and information about lakes and the freshwater ecosystems of which they are a part, as well as UNEP’s global freshwater strategy up to 2025.


Embedding Lakes into the Global Sustainability Agenda (WWQA)

This White Paper has been prepared by the World Water Quality Alliance (WWQA) Ecosystems Workstream as a contribution to the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in their implementation of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) Resolution 3/10 on "Addressing water pollution to protect and restore water-related ecosystems" (UNEP/EA.3/Res.10). The White Paper has been prepared following a peer review process and represents the views of the authors. The White Paper does not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of contributing organisations. 

Towards a management strategy for microplastic pollution in the Laurentian Great Lakes – Ecological risk assessment and management (part 2) 

K.E. Hataley et al. Canadian Journal of Fisheries 7 Aquatic Sciences 80 (10), 1669-1678, 2023 - Over the past decade, plastic pollution has been documented throughout the Laurentian Great Lakes basin. Here, we demonstrate the application of a published ecological risk assessment and management framework for microplastics in aquatic environments by comparing proposed thresholds for risk to monitoring data from the Great Lakes region.  

Risk assessment of flood disasters in the Poyang lake area / X. Wang et al. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 2023 - Floods are one type of common and catastrophic disaster and cause extensive destruction areas, enormous casualties, and huge economic and environmental losses worldwide. 

High Resolution Mapping of Nitrate Loads of a Reservoir Using an Uncrewed Surface Vehicle: Potential Opportunities and Challenges (AGU, 15 Nov 2023).

Abstract: Reliable nutrient load estimation of a reservoir is challenging due to inconsistent spatial extent and temporal frequency of water quality and quantity measurements. This study aims to collect consistent spatial extent and temporal frequency of water depths and nitrate concentrations of a reservoir in South Korea using uncrewed surface vehicle (USV). 

Global conservation priorities for wetlands and setting post-2025 targets (Nature, 2 Jan 2024).

Abstract: Wetland conservation is becoming increasingly important as wetland areas decline globally. However, no comprehensive global-scale mapping of wetland conservation priorities and targets has been published. This information is needed to extend the current protected area network and improve the conservation efficiency for wetlands. Here, we propose a cost-effective assessment model for wetland conservation by integrating wetland conservation value- and human impact-related indicators to identify global wetland conservation priorities. These priorities cover 28% of the potential global wetland distribution, and of that, only 44% is currently protected by existing protected areas. To protect more wetland conservation priorities, we propose three target-setting scenarios for protected area expansion that offer additional contributions of 9.40%, 42.40%, and 55.97%, respectively. These three global targets can be downscaled to the national level and used to update national wetland biodiversity conservation strategies and action plans under a harmonized legal and regulatory regime at different scales and jurisdictions. 

A global assessment of lake restoration in practice: New insights and future perspectives (Science). Learn more

Climate change amplifies the risk of potentially toxigenic cyanobacteria (Global Change Biology, July 2023). Learn more.

A science and management partnership to restore coregonine diversity to the Laurentian Great Lakes (USGS, 31 May 2023). Learn more

Is it a new day for freshwater biodiversity? Reflections on outcomes of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. "COP15 recognized for the first-time ‘inland waters’ as a distinct realm in terms of setting targets and a process for monitoring and conserving them and their biodiversity". ( Learn more.

Satellites reveal widespread decline in global lake water storage (Science). Learn more.

Sustainable Lake Management and the Role of Integrated Lake Basin Management (ILBM). Learn more.

Mainstreaming lakes and wetlands into the Global Water Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (UNEP/ILEC, 2021). Learn more.

Disruption of ecological networks in lakes by climate change and nutrient fluctuations. Learn more.

International Lake Environment Committee Foundation publications. Learn more

Lakes and Reservoirs Science, Policy and Management for Sustainable Use. Learn more. 


Africa’s Lakes: Atlas of Our Changing Environment (UNEP, 2006)

Water is vital for our survival. Africa is the second largest and the second most populous continent after Asia. It is endowed with both natural and artificial lakes and is home to some of the largest lakes in the world. These lakes are used for fishing, recreation, transport, irrigation, power generation, disposal of waste and a variety of domestic purposes. Over the years, human factors combined with natural conditions of climate and geology have influenced their water quality and quantity to some extent. Negative impacts have resulted in environmental disruptions to some of the Lakes basins. This atlas vividly illustrates some of the changes people and nature have brought about on Africa's lakes -both good and bad- over the last decades and presents an overview analysis of Africa's lakes situation. Learn more.


Capacity development and training courses

Living Lakes Academy

The Living Lakes Biodiversity and Climate Project has launched the Living Lakes Academy to build a global youth community of wetland managers and conservationists. Offered by the Global Nature Fund in cooperation with the Environmental Campus Birkenfeld of the Trier University of Applied Sciences (Germany), the Living Lakes Academy gives you the opportunity to learn about current conservation trends, get practical experience in an environmental non-profit, and become part of a global youth community of like-minded change makers. Learn more. 

living lakes

UNEP GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre

The Capacity Development Centre was established in 2015 and is a Centre of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Environmental Research Institute of UCC (pictured above). The functions of the Centre are to promote and support water quality monitoring and assessment on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme and in co-operation with UN Water and its thematic priority area of Water Quality. Learn more.


Integrated Lake Basin Management - training materials

This website contains the training materials used in the Integrated Lake Basin Management training course, sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and executed by the International Lake Environment Committee (ILEC) Foundation. Here you will find training modules on various topics related to Integrated Lake Basin Management and Integrated Lentic-Lotic Basin Management. Learn more.

Massive Open Online Course on Ecosystem Restoration, UNDP and CBD

In this self-paced course you will learn to develop a step-by-step ecosystem restoration plan and apply effective restoration solutions in your national and subnational context.The course serves as an introduction to the Short-Term Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration (STAPER) - a flexible framework adopted by the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to support, inter alia, governments in the development and implementation of their national restoration strategies. The course is geared to government representatives interested in creating a blueprint for ecosystem restoration at the national or subnational level, but is open to everyone. The course is currently offered in English. Versions of the course in French and Spanish are forthcoming. Learn more


Online training course: Nature-based infrastructure for climate adaptation and sustainable development.

This 5-week live program aims to empower policy-makers, infrastructure planners, and investors to appreciate and analyze the economic performance and co-benefits of NBI, in comparison with “built” or “grey” infrastructure. Learn more

Monitoring Water Quality of Inland Lakes using Remote Sensing, NASA - ARSET 

This advanced-level training will focus on using remote sensing observations from Landsat 8 and 9, Sentinel-2, and Sentinel-3 for assessing water quality parameters, including chlorophyll-a concentration, turbidity, and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) in inland lakes. This training will also highlight the importance of in situ measurements of these parameters, coincident with satellite observations, in developing methodologies for operational water quality monitoring. Learn more

Hydrography Videos by the National Geospatial Program

The videos provide information on The National Map's hydrography products, services, applications, and tools:  NHD, WBD, NHDPlus HR,  StreamFlow Estimates in NHDPlus HR, and Hydrolink Tool. The mission of the National Geospatial Program is to provide National topographic information to advance science, support government, enlighten citizens, and enable decision making. The NGP provides a foundation of digital geospatial data representing the topography, natural landscape, and manmade environment of the United States. Learn more


The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes 

The UNECE Water Convention is a unique legal and intergovernmental platform which promotes sustainable use of transboundary waters. Originally adopted as a regional treaty in 1992, it became a global instrument in 2016. Many countries outside the pan-European region are now in the process of accession to the Convention.


Data and information systems 

GEMStat Water Quality Dashboard (UNEP) . Learn more.

Global Freshwater Quality Database GEMStat (UNEP). Learn more.

Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer (UNEP). Learn more.

Cascade (UNEP-DHI). Learn more. 

Flood and Drought portal (UNEP-DHI). Learn more.

Global Lakes and Wetlands Database (WWF). Learn more.


Nature-based solutions 

How Nature Can Help Address Water-related Challenges - Freshwater Ecosystems Technical Brief (UNEP-DHI)

This UNEP-DHI report highlights the potential of using freshwater ecosystems to implement nature-based solutions (NbS) to tackle the triple planetary crisis – climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution. Using lessons from Afghanistan, Albania, El Salvador, Haiti, Kenya, Morocco, and Tanzania, it showcases the potential for real livelihood and socioeconomic benefits that have been unlocked by implementing nature-based solutions through freshwater ecosystems. Learn more.

Water Funds to Institutionalize Nature-based Solutions in Ecuador - Case Study (UNEP, 2020).  Learn more.

Nature-based Solutions to Emerging Water Management Challenges in the Asia-Pacific Region (UNEP/Climate Technology Centre & Network, 2022, includes case studies).  Learn more.

Blending Water Management and Climate Adaptation Approaches (UNEP/UNEP-DHI, 2022).  Learn more.

A review on constructed wetlands-based removal of pharmaceutical contaminants derived from non-point source pollution (Science Direct) .  Learn more.

Research organizations

Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON)

Mission: The Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network conducts innovative science by sharing and interpreting high-resolution sensor data to understand, predict and communicate the role and response of lakes in a changing global environment. Vision: GLEON envisions: A worldwide network of instrumented buoys on lakes, placing critical lake information at the fingertips of researchers, managers, and the general public. Dr. Weathers is co-Chair of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON). Learn more

The African Great Lakes (ACARE)

Vision: A world where millions of Africans can depend on healthy African Great Lakes for food, clean water, and reliable employment, supporting a climate of justice, equity, democracy, and peace. Mission: ACARE creates highly collaborative systems that strengthen science to positively affect policy and management for healthy African Great Lakes. ACARE’s African Great Lakes commitment. Contact: Stephanie Smith [email protected] or [email protected]Learn more.

The International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR)

IAGLR is a scientific organization made up of researchers studying the Laurentian Great Lakes, other large lakes of the world, and their watersheds, as well as those with an interest in such research. IAGLR members encompass all scientific disciplines with a common interest in the management of large lake ecosystems on many levels. 20-24 May 2024: IAGLR's 67th Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research, Windsor, Ontario. Theme: One Water, One Health. Learn more


Risk analysis

WWF Risk Filter Suite

Understanding your nature-related risks is the first step towards taking meaningful action to reduce those risks and contribute to a more sustainable future. With the WWF Risk Filter Suite, companies and financial institutions have easy and streamlined access to distinct and complementary tools the - Biodiversity Risk Filter and Water Risk Filter - enabling users to upload and manage their data in a central and secure online platform for performing their biodiversity and water risk assessments. Learn more.


Status reports

Our freshwater 2023: New Zealand’s environmental reporting series. Learn more.

Transboundary Lakes and Reservoirs: Status and Future Trends (UNEP/GEF/ILEC 2016). Learn more.

Wetlands and people at risk (IUCN, 2022) . Learn more.


UNEP priorities and projects

UNEP Freshwater Strategic Priorities, 2022-2025.  Learn more.

Biodiversity conservation, sustainable land management and enhanced water security in Lake Tanzania basin (a UNEP-GEF project currently under development).  Learn more.


Further tools and resources 

Living Lakes Newsletter. Learn more and subscribe! 

What Are 'Endorheic Lakes' and How Are They Formed? - AZ Animals. Learn more. 

The Living Lakes Network is an international partnership of 130 members working in more than 60 countries to protect and restore the lakes and wetlands of the world. Learn more.

Lake Balkhash Preservation Plan (2006). Learn more. 

New model for preventing growing water and social conflicts and climate risks in Central Asia. Learn More.

Global Survey of Lake Restoration in Practice by The World Water Quality Alliance (WWQA). Complete the survey