Transboundary groundwater resources management

Groundwater systems do not respect administrative boundaries: many groundwater systems therefore are shared between two, three or more countries. Whereas debates on international river basins have been taking place for many years, the attention for transboundary or 'internationally shared' aquifers is only very recent. The establishment of internationally shared aquifer resource management/transboundary aquifer resource management (ISARM/TARM) as a commission under IAH and UNESCO has been instrumental to raise awareness of the need for transboundary aquifer management arrangements between countries. ISARM/TARM is also active in forming - in cooperation with regional and national entities - regional networks for transboundary aquifer management. Examples are the networks in the Balkans and in the Americas. The scope of activities is multi-disciplinary and includes hydrogeological, legal, institutional, socio-economic and environmental aspects. In addition, there are transboundary aquifer management projects for large shared aquifers such as the GuaranĂ­ aquifer in South America and the Iullemeden aquifer in northern Africa. Organizations like the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), World Bank

Table 16.3. GW-MATE's Briefing Notes on Groundwater Management: key concepts and tools.

Number

Title

Year of publication

1

Groundwater resource management - an introduction to its scope and practice

2003

2

Characterization of groundwater systems - key concepts and frequent misconceptions

2003

3

Groundwater management strategies - facets of the integrated approach

2003

4

Groundwater legislation and regulatory provision - from customary rules to integrated catchment planning

2003

5

Groundwater abstraction rights - from theory to practice

2002

6

Stakeholder participation in groundwater management - mobilizing and sustaining aquifer management organizations

2003

7

Economic instruments for groundwater management - using incentives to improve sustainability

2003

8

Groundwater quality protection - defining strategy and setting priorities

2003

9

Groundwater monitoring requirements for managing aquifer response and quality threats

2004

10

Groundwater dimensions of national and river-basin planning - ensuring an integrated strategy

Not yet available

11

Utilization of non-renewable groundwater - a socially sustainable approach to resource management

2003

12

Urban waste water as groundwater recharge - evaluating and managing the risks and benefits

2003

13

Groundwater resources development in minor aquifers - management strategy for village and small town water supply

2005

14

Natural groundwater quality hazards - avoiding problems and formulating mitigation strategies

2005

15

Groundwater-dependent ecosystems

Not yet available

and UNESCO are involved in these projects, along with regional and national organizations.

If sharing information on groundwater between countries is at all needed, it is certainly needed in the case of internationally shared aquifers. One of the first steps in the activities of the regional networks for transboundary aquifer management therefore is an inventory. This inventory allows information to be shared on each country's part of the transboundary aquifers, thus putting pieces of the puzzle together. UN/ECE pioneered such an inventory for Europe and the inventory model has been used later by other regional groups. Findings so far are that this inventory step is already very difficult and time-consuming, but it breaks the ice for next steps in which not only information has to be shared, but a good degree of trust as well. IGRAC is cooperating with ISARM by organizing ISARM's website (including regional pages) and by assisting in the processing and visualization of inventory data.

It can be observed that at present the degree of sharing information is insufficient to allow shared aquifer management to be planned and implemented. It will still take many more years and dramatically increased efforts to achieve satisfactory levels of sharing information.

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