Water – one of the most undervalued resources on earth

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) in partnership with WaterNet and the Southern African Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) organised a highly successful webinar on Groundwater Quality. More than 370 participants from across the globe participated in the webinar with the majority of them coming from Africa. The Webinar which attracted water resources managers, engineers, academia and representatives from River Basins Organisations and transboundary aquifers (TBAs) introduced the online course on Groundwater quality which will commence on 12 April 2021.

In his welcoming remarks, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa Professor Hubert Gijzen emphasized the importance of water to life. He reminded the participants that water remains the most undervalued resource on earth.
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Last update: April 21, 2022
Indeed, water is life, yet judging from the way we manage water, it seems that water continues to be one of the most under-valued resources on planet earth. And if that is so for surface water, imagine how this is for groundwater, which you can’t directly see.
Prof. Hubert Gijzen

Prof. Gijzen said the course UNESCO is introducing responds to new global, national and local water realities, which indicate that humanity is facing numerous unprecedented and inter-connected water challenges, which need urgent attention to ensure future food security and provision of safe and sufficient water for healthy people and a healthy environment

If managed properly, water can be an instrument of poverty alleviation, economic development and can potentially bring prosperity to all.
Prof. Hubert Gijzen

Dr. Alice Aureli, Chief of Section on Groundwater Systems and Settlements in UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) emphasised the importance of governance for transboundary aquifers and indicated that UNESCO has covered significant ground in mapping transboundary aquifers outside Europe. Ms. Stéphanie Piers de Raveschoot, representing the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) indicated their commitment to support the Governance for Groundwater Resources in Transboundary Aquifers and commended UNESCO for the work it is doing in supporting member states. 

Experts from various universities and institutions gave brief presentations on various topics to be covered in the online course. The topics presented introduced the participants to the following issues which will be addressed in more detail in the course:

  • Groundwater aquifers in Southern Africa (nature, extent, groundwater/ surface water interaction in TBAs);
  • Aquifer characterisation for vulnerability mapping and potential contaminant transport mapping for TBAs;
  •  Impacts of climate change on groundwater quality;
  • Groundwater quality monitoring and management framework, modelling & mapping; and 
  • Governance: The role of stakeholder participation and communication in groundwater quality management.

Participants expressed their interest in taking up the online course and concurred with UNESCO and its partners on the need to further build capacity as well as raising awareness on groundwater management. The issues of managing pollution and mapping transboundary aquifers stood out.  

The webinar was held in the context of the Governance of Groundwater Resources in Transboundary Aquifers (GGRETA) project Phase 3 (2019-2022) whose objective is to strengthen regional stability, cooperation and peace through the establishment of cooperative frameworks for transboundary groundwater governance in River Basin Organizations (RBOs), Regional Commissions (RCs) and selected aquifers systems in Africa. The project addresses key targets on reforming/updating legal, policy and institutional arrangements, strengthening capacity and implementing collective measures at national and regional level to develop sustainable management and governance of transboundary aquifers and associated ecosystems. The webinar will also contribute towards the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Programme (APAGroP) Action Group 3 on Capacity Strengthening which is being led by UNESCO-IHP.

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UN World Water Development Report