Soil erosion is a key issue in Europe, and strategies to protect soil need to be developed. Hence, eroding soils or those at risk of erosion need to be identified. Much model-derived information on rates of erosion and on erosion risk of cultivated land may be of dubious value, and thus, there is need for other ways to assess erosion. Field-based assessment is one approach for assessing and monitoring erosion and gives information that can be used at a variety of scales. In this review paper, the continuing use of models that predict potential erosion is questioned, and it is argued that there is a need for more field-based assessment and monitoring of water erosion with monitoring at frequent intervals. Such monitoring allows the magnitude of the erosion problem to be assessed properly, and thus, the physical, social and economic factors that drive erosion can be better analysed and addressed. Field-based erosion monitoring should be undertaken in all global environments, and then the results can be used to validate those from models of potential erosion.