Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) has been widely praised for its extreme sensitivity but has not so far been put to use in routine analytical applications, with the accessible scale of measurements a limiting factor. We report here on a frugal implementation of SERS dedicated to the quantitative detection of Zn2+ in water, Zn being an element that can serve as an indicator of contamination by heavy metals in aquatic bodies. The method consists in randomly aggregating simple silver colloids in the analyte solution in the presence of a complexometric indicator of Zn2+, recording the SERS spectrum with a portable Raman spectrometer and analysing the data using multivariate calibration models. The frugality of the sensing procedure enables us to acquire a dataset much larger than conventionally done in the field of SERS, which in turn allows for an in-depth statistical analysis of the analytical performances that matter to end-users. In pure water, the proposed sensor is sensitive and accurate in the 160–2230 nM range, with a trueness of 96% and a precision of 4%. Although its limit of detection is one order of magnitude higher than those of golden standard techniques for quantifying metals, its sensitivity range matches Zn levels that are relevant to the health of aquatic bodies. Moreover, its frugality positions it as an interesting alternative to monitor water quality. Critically, the combination of the simple procedure for sample preparation, abundant SERS material and affordable portable instrument paves the way for a realistic deployment to the water site, with each Zn reading three to five times cheaper than through conventional techniques. It could therefore complement current monitoring methods in a bid to solve the pressing needs for large scale water quality data.