This week, IGRAC Director Neno Kukuric contributed to the session 'Groundwater Sustainability - How can we manage the commons under uncertainty?' of the Budapest Water Summit 2016. During this session, he highlighted the importance of sustainable management groundwater and raising awareness about this hidden resource. The summit took place from 28 till 30 November 2016 in the Millenáris Park in Budapest, Hungary.
How can we manage the commons under uncertainty?
Withdrawals from aquifers (“the Commons”) have increased 300% since the 1950’s bringing huge socio-economic benefits. However, aquifer resources remain quite widely misunderstood, seriously undervalued, poorly managed and inadequately protected. Anthropogenic degradation of the resources in these commons also accelerated markedly during the 20th century.
Serious concerns about the impact of resource sustainability, quality degradation and dependent ecosystem impacts have arisen. The challenge of identifying frameworks of appropriate governance criteria has now been tackled. Translating these into effective institutional partnerships remains considerable.
Cross sectoral governance is currently missing. It is noted that sustainable groundwater is a universal prerequisite for achieving the UN-2030 SDGs, and also for avoiding social conflict and reducing forced migration at a variety of scales.
The presentations and discussions resulted in ten main recommendations for improving groundwater management.
- To make “invisible” groundwater visible to the layman, it should be quantified and measured using science based hydrogeological methods.
- The global groundwater in “the commons” should be managed through cooperation, diplomacy and the available regulations & rules, including the Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers.
- Whilst structured institutional and regulatory solutions exist, they need to be supplemented by incentives that change former behaviour and encourage more efficient and productive use.
- There are no silver bullets and especially in groundwater management, one size will not fit all hydrogeological and socioeconomic topologies. Policies and institutional structures can be developed that are locally applicable and likely to give useful quantity and quality outcomes. Closely linked to this is the access to investment finance, though there are critical pitfalls that have to be addressed.
- The measured response to climate adaptation must seriously take full account of the potential of aquifer replenishment through all forms of managed recharge,
- Governance frameworks vary within and across countries. The ability of sound science, including that developed collaboratively in a transboundary context, to influence groundwater policy and management will be enhanced by carefully developed engagement/communication efforts.
- The “invisible commons” when used conjunctively with surface and other water resources, provide an approach that can enhance groundwater governance. This has significant promise in the context also of transboundary water resources management.
- Transformational shifts are required in multisector.
- Conjunctive use should rely on systems approach and a long term approach is better than short term development.
- Awareness raising is essential and suitable technologies should be deployed.
Budapest Water Summit 2016 outcomes
- Budapest Water Summit: Water Connects - Actions for the 2030 Agenda
- Budapest Water Summit: Policy Recommendations for implementation of the SDG6 areas