World Water Week 2009

World Water Week 2009

Seminar on: Sharing an Invisible Water Resource for the Common Good: How to Make Use of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers.

Event Summary and Conclusions

The aim of the seminar was to offer the opportunity to discuss how to make the transition from the adoption of the Resolution to its implementation into practical and operational actions.

The first keynote address gave the background of the adoption of the Resolution. The Resolution includes as an annex the draft articles prepared by the UN ILC. It is important to transform the draft articles in a UN Convention, or at least to adopt them as guidelines. In both cases, the draft articles will be a useful tool for negotiations. It is urgent to promote the understanding of the articles.

He was followed by a presentation on the global overview of the sustainable management of transboundary aquifers in relation with the principles of the UN GA Resolution. A case study at the US-Mexico borders in Arizona, where an agreement has been signed for developing binational studies on the border aquifers.

The second part has allowed hearing regional voices. In the American continent, the ISARM project has already achieved three phases (scientific/assessment; legal/institutional; socio-economic), following a work plan identified by the countries. The project on the Guarani has achieved a clear identification of the aquifer, and has reached a good level of confidence among the countries for joint actions. In the Senegal River Basin, the Authority is starting a project on the study of transboundary aquifers within its basin, with the objective to propose solutions for improvement in managing this resource and to enable quantitative and qualitative monitoring of the state of the resource. However there is still not enough knowledge and understanding on groundwater and transboundary aquifers in Africa, according to the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW). It is expected that the African Groundwater Commission be operative this year. In the SADC region, in addition to the Protocol on shared waters, there is already consideration of the draft articles as a tool that can be used in the process of arrangements for transboundary aquifers. The problem is still the lack of data and knowledge. In the ESCWA region, the draft articles are considered as guidance and assistance for member countries to find their way to cooperate. The aquifers in the Middle East still need more study and knowledge.

As for the role of international organizations, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is now funding projects on transboundary aquifers, which will help promote and raise the understanding of the articles, in encouraging cooperation. For SIWI, in view of transposing the law into implementation, and bringing the countries to collaborate, the premise is to identify the benefits. This is easier for surface water than for groundwater. For GWP, it is essential to link decisions and policies to the scientific knowledge. When aquifers are transboundary the following issues need to be tackled: building trust, sharing data, moving to benefit-sharing, getting the right institutions involved. The World Water Council recommended the promotion of the Resolution for the next World Water Forum through the parliamentarian process which was considered successful at the last Forum. For UNEP, the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers are an important tool to recognize an environmental approach for groundwater management. According to the International Association for Water Law (AIDA), every opportunity to bring the Resolution to the attention of Governments and Regional Organizations should be exploited. The regional organizations play a key role to translate this instrument into action on the ground. And finally the merit of the ILC to recognize the importance of regulating transboundary aquifers was underlined. The objective is to encourage the better use and management of groundwater resources. 

The seminar ended with the conclusion by UNESCO IHP on its commitments to continue to support the draft articles and pave the way for their proper implementation.