A look into the future

Although the continuation of exchanging groundwater information on a generic level remains important, it follows from the earlier-described current state of affairs that priority needs to be given to the enhancement of sharing area-specific (or geo-referenced) information, knowledge and experience. Documentation of the world's groundwater systems on freely accessible platforms, such as those initiated by FAO (AQUASTAT), UNEP (GEO) and IGRAC (GGIS) needs to be intensified, improved and diversified. Present-day deficiencies of these systems include the scarcity of data in general; the lack of uniformity/synchronization of the data and thus an inherent poor quality of the processed information; and the lack of groundwater-monitoring data, which implies that changes in groundwater conditions are very poorly known, precluding rational and efficient actions to exploit, manage and protect the groundwater resources properly. Furthermore, the information is presented predominantly in the form of variables and indicators; analysis of the corresponding numbers and well-documented accounts of experiences on groundwater are rare.

In the endeavour to establish an enhanced GGIS to better service the international community, IGRAC is challenged in many ways. One of the challenges is to convert the currently ad hoc data inflow mechanisms into more structural ones; this will require strong and active international networks of motivated people, which can only be achieved in the longer term. Another challenge is diversification of the information inside the GGIS. Important categories of additional information to be exchanged and made centrally available are:

• monitored change in groundwater conditions;

• activities undertaken and results obtained in groundwater resources management (sharing experiences as an efficient mechanism for learning);

• national or local organizations and projects active in collecting and providing area-specific information (metadata);

• principal maps, reports and publications on groundwater (metadata).

Beyond the improvement of these platforms and the related databases, there are many more modalities for improving the process of sharing information and experience on groundwater. One of the evident options is building communities of practice and interactive networks on groundwater; expanding the awareness on groundwater effectively to non-technical target groups (politicians, the general public) is another important one.

Managing groundwater resources is a very complex activity and characterized by trial and error. Information is only one of the many factors at play, but an important one. Sufficient area-specific information will help us in choosing which road to embark upon and in keeping track of whether it brings us where we want to be. Local information is crucial in this respect, but - as explained in this paper - the international exchange of information and experience may produce significant added value and thus contribute to better results.

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