Maintaining a clean water supply is of utmost importance for human civilization. Human activities are putting an increasing strain on Earth’s freshwater reserves and on the quality of available water on Earth. To ensure cleanliness and potability of water, sensors are required to monitor various water quality parameters in surface, ground, drinking, process, and waste water. One set of parameters with high importance is the presence of cations. Some cations can play a beneficial role in human biology, and others have detrimental effects. In this review, various lab-based and field-based methods of cation detection are discussed, and the uses of these methods for the monitoring of water are investigated for their selectivity and sensitivity. The cations chosen were barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, hardness (calcium, magnesium), lead, mercury, nickel, silver, uranium, and zinc. The methods investigated range from optical (absorbance/fluorescence) to electrical (potentiometry, voltammetry, chemiresistivity), mechanical (quartz crystal microbalance), and spectrometric (mass spectrometry). Emphasis is placed on recent developments in mobile sensing technologies, including for integration into microfluidics.