The International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC) was founded in early 2003 in Utrecht (the Netherlands) with funding from the government of the Netherlands made available after UNESCO and WMO formulated an initiative for such a centre. The need for IGRAC was motivated by the following main factors:
• Generally perceived poor access to geo-referenced information on groundwater at a global scale: Even if the information does exist, it is often so difficult to access that most of it in practice fails to contribute to the analysis and planning of groundwater at the global, regional and even national levels.
• Inadequacy of groundwater data acquisition in many countries: Many groundwater systems have not been explored and assessed sufficiently, while variations in time of the groundwater conditions - essential information for adequate management - are monitored only exceptionally.
There is no doubt that a global groundwater centre can make an important contribution to filling these gaps. Therefore, it has the potential to significantly reduce the currently widespread inefficiencies in groundwater-related activities and to help countries in defining their priorities regarding groundwater.
Under the general objective of contributing to adequate development and management of the world's groundwater resources, in conjunction with surface water resources, the fundamental objectives adopted by IGRAC are:
• enhancing worldwide knowledge on groundwater, by promoting related data and experiences to be shared and by making this information widely available on the basis of centralized retrieval services and targeted dissemination;
• contributing to the acquisition of more and better groundwater data, by means of guidelines and protocols for groundwater assessment and monitoring.
IGRAC pursues these objectives by the development of a Global Groundwater Information System (GGIS), by activities related to Guidelines and Protocols for groundwater data acquisition (G&P) and by participation in strategic global and regional projects with a strong groundwater component (WHYMAP, WWAP, UNESCO working groups, ISARM, etc.). Cooperation with UNESCO, WMO, IAH, national groundwater organizations and many other partners all over the world is among the key mechanisms to achieve IGRAC's goals.
The ambition of IGRAC is to become a central international platform for groundwater information, where parties from all parts of the world share their information, knowledge and experience on groundwater. Emphasis is on geo-referenced information. As such, it fits into the family of global centres collecting geo-referenced information on components of the water cycle, such as the Global Precipitation and Climate Centre (GPCC) at Offenbach, Germany, the Global Runoff Data Center (GRDC) at Koblenz, Germany, and the Global Environmental Monitoring System on Water (GEMS/Water) at Burlington, Canada. Most of IGRAC's products can be found on the website at: www.igrac.nl.
IGWMC was established in 1978 at the Butler University, Indianapolis, USA, and had a branch office in Delft, the Netherlands, during the 1980s. IGWMC originally had the profile of a clearing-house for groundwater modelling software, and presented groundwater-modelling courses as a secondary activity. The centre now operates from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, USA. It sells software and it provides advisory services and training related to groundwater modelling. Its website address is: www.mines.edu/igwmc/.
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