On 6-8 December 2021, UNESCO will organise the conference ISARM 2021 in Paris, France. This Second International UNESCO Conference on transboundary aquifers ISARM II “Challenges and the way forward”; aims to be an opportunity for showcasing diverse efforts made by UNESCO, the International and Donor community (GEF, the World Bank, the FAO, the Swiss, the German etc…) to streamline groundwater as an enabler for achieving the water-related SDGs.
Overview of the challenges and way forward into addressing transboundary aquifers management
Groundwater is the most abundant source of freshwater worldwide. This makes it crucial to socio-ecological systems and the source of at least half of the planet population. There are 366 transboundary aquifers identified, and 226 transboundary “groundwater bodies”, underlying almost every country.
Transboundary aquifers are not only a source of freshwater to societies, but they also represent a geographic, economic, and geopolitical space. While nations establish their limits by political boundaries, aquifers are delimited by their hydrogeological dynamics; understanding them and defining the boundaries of these water bodies is a challenge due to the intricate physicochemical processes to which they are exposed and the available information and characterization. Furthermore, transboundary aquifers are a complex subject to apprehend due to the sociopolitical and territorial interactions that stir up in them.
There is no doubt transboundary aquifers management is a challenge, particularly when addressing governance issues. Furthermore, under the light of the Agenda 2030 and the new development framework, there is clear evidence that institutional strengthening on transboundary aquifers management, and the so mentioned subjects, is needed. Besides, there is an absence of characterization and legal guidance on this subject with existing multilateral environmental, regional, and sub-regional agreements (i.e. Paris Agreement, UN biodiversity convention, the RAMSAR Conventions), and existing transboundary river basin treaties and agreements.