Sensors and enabling technologies are becoming increasingly important tools for water quality monitoring and associated water resource management decisions. In particular, nutrient sensors are of interest because of the well-known adverse effects of nutrient enrichment on coastal hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, and impacts to human health. Accurate and timely information on nutrient concentrations and loads is integral to strategies designed to minimize risk to humans and manage the underlying drivers of water quality impairment. Using nitrate sensors as an example, we highlight the types of applications in freshwater and coastal environments that are likely to benefit from continuous, real-time nutrient data. The concurrent emergence of new tools to integrate, manage and share large data sets is critical to the successful use of nutrient sensors and has made it possible for the field of continuous nutrient monitoring to rapidly move forward. We highlight several near-term opportunities for Federal agencies, as well as the broader scientific and management community, that will help accelerate sensor development, build and leverage sites within a national network, and develop open data standards and data management protocols that are key to realizing the benefits of a large-scale, integrated monitoring network. Investing in these opportunities will provide new information to guide management and policies designed to protect and restore our nation’s water resources.