As the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation process is being rolled out, monitoring and reporting on the status and progress are essential. As custodian on behalf of UN-Water, of the SDG indicator 6.4.2 on water stress, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) together with partners launched the report “Guidelines for a minimum standard method for global reporting” on January 29, 2019, at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. The guidelines are intended to assist countries in accessing data for the assessment of water stress by providing guidance on the inclusion of data on environmental flows, which are necessary for the calculation of the SDG 6.4.2 indicator on water stress.
Partners of the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) – United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) – have been key partners in the development of these guidelines. Chris Dickens (IWMI) and Vladimir Smakhtin (UNU-INWEH) joined the launch of the guidelines to provide the background and technical details of the report. Chris, attending remotely, emphasized the role of environmental flows in water security, utilization of Ecological Management Classes in decision making on the required status of river systems and the Global Environmental Flow Information System (GEFIS), which is the guideline model and an online platform created by IWMI. GEFIS provides globally distributed data on environmental flows, which can be aggregated to any desired geographic unit. The tool also enables estimation of sustainable groundwater abstraction at the same flexible scales, based on linkages between baseflow and groundwater storage. The guidelines provide a minimum standard, which will support countries in generating the required data for the global report on SDG indicator 6.4.2, and also provide support to countries for their Voluntary National Review report on SDG indicator 6.4.2 that will be based on more detailed information, with water stress and environmental flow data disaggregated to basin or sub-basin scale.