Toward a joint management of transboundary aquifer systems: a methodological guide

Toward a joint management of transboundary aquifer systems: a methodological guide

In order to efficiently contribute to take up the challenges of the sustainable management of transboundary aquifers, the French Development Agency (AFD) launched a methodological study in close partnership with UNESCO-IHP's ISARM project, the French Water Academy, the International Office for Water, and the French Geological Survey (BRGM). The aim of this study is to develop an operational guidebook which consists of recommendations targeted to political decision-makers and managers, and includes case studies selected on several continents.

The methodological guide first recalls the main issues at stake regarding transboundary aquifers and the need for more comprehensive approach based on IWRM principles (Part I). It then describes a whole range of technical, legal, organizational, economic, training and cooperation tools that can help improve the knowledge and management of these precious resources (Part II). Finally, it proposes a progressive, multi-pronged approach for implementing the concerted, equitable and sustainable management of transboundary aquifer systems. It also takes a look at the potential mechanisms for creating and sustainably operating an appropriate institutional structure to manage these shared groundwater resources (Part III).

The guidebook is the third part of a more global study, and is preceded by important preparatory work:

  • The first part is about a preliminary assessment and general analysis including the identification of going on dynamics at the legal, institutional and technical levels, an identification major challenges and an analysis of experiences on some transboundary aquifer systems (North Western Sahara, Iullemeden, Guarani, Nubian sandstone, Upper Rhine, Carboniferous, Genevese and Stampriet aquifer systems)
  • The second part includes detailed case studies of seven transboundary aquifer systems representing important challenges (aquifer systems of the Mekong River basin, coastal aquifers Ghana-Togo-Benin, lac Chad basin, Senegal-Mauritania aquifer system, Taouudeni-Tanezrouft, Iuellemeden, Mountain and Coastal aquifers between Palestinian Territories and Israel) 

This guidebook is available in French and English:

Guidelines for Multidisciplinary Assessment of Transboundary Aquifers

The international aspect of a transboundary aquifer makes its management more complex than in a case of an aquifer located within the State borders. An informed and sustainable management of commonly shared aquifer asks for adequate knowledge of its characteristics, present state and trends. In order to acquire this knowledge, regular monitoring and assessment of the transboundary aquifer need to be performed. The 'Guidelines for Multidisciplinary Assessment of Transboundary Aquifers', developed by IGRAC and UNESCO-IHP, describes a methodology for multidisciplinary assessment of transboundary aquifers and gives the guidelines for its implementation.


The draft of the methodology guidelines presented in the document are the outcome of several initiatives, including the ISARM programme led by UNESCO and the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) and the first phase of the TWAP project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). IGRAC and UNESCO-IHP are grateful to all experts involved in these initiatives who provided important input and/or feedback on the methodology for the multi-disciplinary assessment of transboundary aquifers. This methodology was also applied and further developed in two projects: The TWAP Groundwater component which is a comparative assessment of 199 transboundary aquifers worldwide; and the GGRETA project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), which entailed in-depth assessments of three transboundary aquifers. IGRAC and UNESCO-IHP are additionally grateful to the country and assessment coordinators and technical experts whose hard work and feedback further refined and informed this methodology.