Sharing underground water: international conference on transboundary aquifers
UNESCO is organizing an international conference about transboundary aquifers at Organization Headquarters from 6 to 8 December in collaboration with the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Underground aquifers represent nearly 96% of the planet’s freshwater, i.e. a volume 100 times higher than that of surface freshwater. In arid or semi-arid regions, they are often one of the few sources of water supply, if not the only source (100% in Saudi Arabia and in Malta, 95% in Tunisia). The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) published the first detailed map of transboundary aquifers in 2008. In 2010, more than 270 have been identified all over the world, of which 73 are on the American continent, 38 in Africa, 65 in Eastern Europe, 90 in Western Europe and 12 in Asia.
Nearly 400 experts (scientists, lawyers, researchers, decision-makers, water management experts, diplomats, etc.) from around the world will participate in the meeting, entitled “Transboundary Aquifers: Challenges and New Directions”, at which an updated inventory of the world’s transboundary aquifers will be presented. Two years after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution about the “law of transboundary aquifers”, the conference will also explore the different institutional mechanisms that could be implemented, with the support of UNESCO, to promote cooperation between countries sharing aquifers. These discussions will serve to prepare the negotiations on the possible adoption of a Convention on Transboundary Aquifers that will take place during the next session of the UN General Assembly in 2011.
The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme is the only programme in the United Nations system devoted to water research, water resources management and water education. In 2000, the Intergovernmental Council of the IHP launched an international initiative on the management of resources of shared aquifers: the ISARM (Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management) programme, with the objective of drawing up a worldwide inventory of these basins and formulating recommendations for the sustainable management of these resources.
This first phase of the programme (2000-2010) led notably to the publication of the map and Atlas of transboundary aquifers in 2008. The second phase, which will begin in 2011, will launch activities in regions with limited resources in terms of labour, financing and institutional frameworks and assist countries in implementing the recommendations in the United Nations resolution.
Contact: Lucilla Minelli
ISARM 2010 Secretariat
Tel: +33 (0) 6 49 29 97 90
Fax: +33 (0) 1 45 68 58 11
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