WCI Director Karen Villholth (white shirt) forming member of an advisory team to UNECE on groundwater. From left: Marie-Amélie Pétré (Geological Survey of Finland), Alberto Manganelli (CeReGAS), Alice Aureli (previous UNESCO), Shammy Puri (CSSPH), and Arnaud Sterckx (IGRAC) at the UNECE Global Workshop on Conjunctive Management of Surface Water and Groundwater: National to Transboundary Level, Geneva, October, 2023.
The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), with its key mandate for the implementation of the UNECE Water Convention, now counting on 52 country partners globally, works to not only implement tools and agreements for better water cooperation between countries sharing water resources across their borders, but also complements this work with significant supportive and guidance activities. An important one is achieving more coherence in water management and cooperation within and across various water sources, adhering to the fundamental principle of water resources being connected and constituting a unified whole, implying that e.g. groundwater and surface water cannot be managed in isolation. Facing legacies of surface water focus, and gaps in institutionalizing groundwater management in many contexts, UNECE works to enhance the ‘conjunctive’ management of water resources. A first Global Workshop on ‘Conjunctive Management of Surface Water and Groundwater: National to Transboundary Level’, held in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2023, was a critical step in terms of confirming country needs in this aspect, and in building consensus to move forward on supporting better integrated approaches at national and transboundary levels. Research presented pointed to the gap in international treaties in this area, while also highlighting the need to build on advances in international water law on transboundary aquifer management. UNECE, spurred by country demand, and in cooperation with partners, UNESCO, GEF/IW:LEARN, International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), Centre for Sustainable Solutions in Practical Hydrogeology (CSSPH), Water Cycle Innovation (WCI) and others, is poised to further define work in this field in their programme of work going forward. A brief technical note was prepared, identifying the challenges and needs.
WCI continues to promote groundwater for sustainable development, including in the transboundary context. It gave a keynote presentation on ‘Transboundary Aquifers – What Do We Know and How Can these Water Resources Bring Cooperation rather than Conflict?’ at the national IAH Conference in Ireland in April 2023 ‘Groundwater & Planning’. It is also currently contributing to an upcoming Routledge publication on water diplomacy: ‘The Only Water Diplomacy Handbook You Will Ever Need’, specifying the most critical aspects of water diplomacy when it comes to (transboundary) groundwater.