The opening keynote (by Alfonso Rivera & Lucila Candela) synthesised the efforts of the past decade, at the same time pointing out future needs. The lightening presentations (very short and to the point!), given entirely by young and upcoming professionals, gave the participants a view point of the focus of the current research and investigation. The forward look short presentations gave an insight (from the perspectives of the officers of the Commission) on what gaps exist in the data and information, in the legal and policy arenas and the institutional and socio-economic aspects of transboundary aquifers.
There was rich discussion of these issues. A questionnaire had been circulated in advance of the meeting and the topics raised there were commented on. There is a consensus that transboundary aquifers are recognised in the international water agenda – but insufficient attention is paid to them in national policies. Good scientific progress has been made on the identification, evaluation and assessment, but the findings remain within the domains of scientists, rather than in the wider community of the water sector. The international water law addressing aquifers, although formulated and circulated at the UN General Assembly, seems stalled and somewhat in limbo, with no champion (country) to take it further. Nevertheless, some countries are continuing to make progress with bi or multi-lateral collaboration, but this remains ‘bitty’. There is an opportunity for the groundwater community to promote the issue more vigorously through linking them to the SDG’s and indeed in the forthcoming ‘year of groundwater’.
Next Steps for 2020-2024
The workshop ended with the decision to move forward with new officers, as the current Chair is retiring. A detailed call for participation and taking nominated positions of Commission Directors, Co Directors and Senior Advisors will be going out shortly. The next Commission (or Network) will define the next phase of work at their initial meetings, expected to take place early in 2020.
A document has been set up in which the next steps for the IAH-TBA Commission have been described, including an application form for becoming officer of the commission from 2020 to 2024. The form is available here and the application deadline is 15 December 2019.