Session FT 1.39
Shared groundwater resources for sustainable management
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Organization of American States (OAS)
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES)
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
The importance of groundwater in its many functions, not only as a source of drinking water but also as supporter of ecosystems and playing a key role in prevention of land degradation was emphasized in the session. The groundwater-related legal and socioeconomic issues were discussed, particularly in the transboundary context. The session provided through presentation of local actions an overview of the status of management and protection of shared groundwater resources. An update was given on the work of the United Nations International Law Commission on development of an international legal instrument for shared groundwater. Groundwater development can only be made sustainable through an effective dialogue between individual users, regulators and policy makers. What are the key drivers for this dialogue that can make it more effective from the local groundwater use to transboundary aquifer systems to the global scale environmental sustainability?
The objective of the session is to disseminate information on
1) the significance of groundwater in national economic development and public health, from local use to supply for industry and municipalities;
2) the significance of groundwater for environmental sustainability, as a reservoir for drought alleviation;
3) the crucial need to ensure good resource management (i.e. replenishment) for sustainability, at the local level of individual users and the regional/global levels, including transboundary partners
Significant level of investment (i.e. education, exploration and planning) is required, if groundwater is to be developed - it should match investment in surface water programmes (i.e. dam, canals, river management);
Early planning by government is essential if groundwater is to provide its drought alleviation role and protection of resources;
Governments & stakeholders need to be working in a much higher level of coordination to bring the relevant players together, i.e. scientist, planners, socioeconomists & health education specialists.
To improve the current groundwater management practices, international transfer and exchange of knowledge should be promoted. It should be noted though that in such transfer and exchange, the diversity of local hydrological and socio-economic conditions must be taken fully into account.
Government resources should be allocated to promote rationalization of water use practices through water saving, water reuse, and recycling practices, especially in industrial sector to reduce demands of groundwater.
A strong legal basis and strong institutions (e.g. transboundary commission) are crucial for effective transboundary cooperation. Joint monitoring and data sharing are important elements of a good management of transboundary groundwater.
Orientations for action
Countries, development assistance agencies, IFIs, and the GEF should all consider that integrated implementation of groundwater projects at central level meets with firm constraints due to established institutions and attitudes and becomes effective only at a local user and site level where stakeholders are directly concerned and recognize the additional benefits. To maximise output from projects, the focus should be on stakeholders` participation and sharing knowledge through networks with demonstration of good practice, supported by quantitative impact evaluation and training initiatives, including on-line resources, and targeted training.
The two projects, The Artibonite-Masacre Transboundary Aquifers Project and The Pilot-Project for the Yrenda-Toba-Tarijeno Transboundary Aquifer System will be replicable demonstration actions in the Latin American region. They will introduce groundwater sustainable management in the IWRM in a transboundary context, especially in connection with the management of risk mitigation associated to global climate change, with the efforts to halt desertification and land degradation, alleviate poverty and, through common scientific and policy instruments, with the involvement of the institutions and other stakeholders. They will lead to the creation of legal frameworks and regulations that include groundwater and to new concepts of “sharing” transboundary groundwater.
IGES will extend the regional research collaboration on groundwater management in Asian cities, namely Bangdung (Indonesia), Bangkok (Thailand), Colombo and Kandy (Sri Lanka), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and Tianjin (China). As for the case study on groundwater management in Bangkok, it will be summarized by May 2006 after the second stakeholders meeting on 04 April 2006 and the recommendations will be taken up by the concerned government agencies to further develop policies, strategies and actions, and by other stakeholders for implementation of suggested measures. The focus study will be extended to identify alternative water sources to meet increasing demand and to consider “integrated” management of groundwater and surface water resources in Bangkok.
Local actions presented
Managing transboundary aquifers as a tool for environment stress-reduction and poverty alleviation: Two examples from the Americas
Organisation of American States
In view of the dramatic situation of inpending environmental collapse faced by highly deforested areas of Central Hispoaniola, where surface waters are progressively lost due to evaporation and uncontrolled runoff, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have decided to join forces and initiate a process that might lead to more sustainable joint natural resources management systems. The countries have agreed on a common vision for the management of their shared groundwater resources, which underlines the strategic role of groundwater: “To sustainably manage the aquifers in the intermountain and coastal regions of Hispaniola with a view to reduce land degradation, excess erosionsedimentation, and poverty “.
The aquifers projects on the Hispaniola Island and in the Peru-Bolivia-Uruguay area will be innovative in using groundwater as a strategic tool to reduce the stress caused on the environment by the effects of the climate variability and change. Techniques for managing groundwater recharge in specific aquifers to reduce the vulnerability of the countries to extreme climatic conditions will be tested; tools and the methodologies for risk reduction will be assessed. The projects will help reduce soil loss and land degradation, protect groundwater-dependent vulnerable ecosystems in terrestrial and coastal zones, respond to increased water demand during periods of drought by using new low-cost technologies with no environmental impact.
Risk Management in the Iullemeden aquifer
Abdelkader Dodo, The Observatory of Sahara and the Sahel
Similar to other large regional multiaquifer groundwater basins management and protection of trhe transboundary Iullemeden aquifer in the Sahara/Sahel region, shared by Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Algeria and Benin is faced with high policy and scientific uncertainty. In spite of the important quantities of groundwater, theses resources are subject to several problems. Common key issues are:
a. large non-renewable subsurface water resources with currently low utilization, with focus on emerging threats, and Climatic Change adaptation; and threats in border areas from overuse and depletion;
b. a large aquifer subject to desertification, desert encroachment and land degradation, loss of productive land;
c. a water quality degradation;
d. decline of groundwater pressure;
e. high scientific and policy uncertainty.
The action is to establish a regional and sustainable cooperative mechanism, to jointly identify, reduce and mitigate transboundary risks, based on joint assessment and a common information base. A common risk management approach implies that the riparian countries are identifying, sharing the consequences and addressing environmental risk, with the consequent socio-economic and security costs. The common approach is major facilitator to promote joint cooperation and to minimize conflict.
Stakeholder Meeting on Sustainable Groundwater Management in Bangkok
Mukand S. Babel, Asian Institute for Technology
Extensive groundwater utilization in Bangkok has resulted in adverse environmental problems such as continuous lowering of groundwater levels, land subsidence, and water quality deterioration due to saltwater intrusion. Various measures for the mitigation of the negative impacts have been proposed and implemented. Nevertheless, problems still persist with established targets for resource-use control largely unachieved and promulgated measures wanting in effectiveness and enforceability. Recognising the importance of participation and input from people and institutions involved, in coordination with the Department of Groundwater Resources (DGR), a Stakeholders Meeting for the SWMP Project for the Bangkok, Thailand Case Study is organized to:
- Present groundwater development and management practices in the past, and the adverse impacts of over-drafting of groundwater resources,
- Discuss and identify deficiencies in existing policies for the mitigation of the adverse impacts,
_ Identify the important policy issues that need to be addressed to improve management of groundwater resources,
- Develop guidelines and strategies for improved policies for sustainable groundwater resources management, and
- Reconcile the needs of the users and of the managers of groundwater resources.
It was identified that the potential demand of groundwater was still high although it is controlled under the current abstraction control measures in Bangkok. For effective management of groundwater resources, governments and local stakeholders should work together under the mutual understandings of the current conditions of the resources. Sharing the regional and international knowledge helps government and relevant stakeholders to widen their knowledge on groundwater and its management. More study on policy side of research should be promoted in close collaboration with scientific research in this area.