UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022 concludes a year of groundwater awareness raising

On 7-8 December 2022, the water world gathered in Paris for the first ever UN-Water Summit on Groundwater. This high-level event coordinated by IGRAC and UNESCO-IHP hosted 800 on-site and over 3,500 online participants and was the last milestone within the framework of the ‘Groundwater, making the invisible visible’ theme of World Water Day 2022. Besides the event coordination, IGRAC was also well represented within the programme.

Day 1 – SDG6 acceleration framework

Opening ceremony

During the opening ceremony of the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022, Neno Kukuric (IGRAC) and Alice Aureli (UNESCO-IHP) shared an overview of challenges and discusion items that would be covered during the two-day event at the UNESCO HQ in Paris, France.

Data & information 

At the start of the SDG6 acceleration framework session on data and information, Groundwater Specialist Claudia Ruz Vargas gave an overview presentation that set the stage for the panel discussion.

This session was dedicated to presenting the current state of groundwater data and information, demand and availability. It went on to discuss the main challenges to improving data collection and to ensuring access to such data as well as identifying actions for moving forward. Participants represented national and international perspectives. The guiding principles that underpin the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework were used to orient and define the proposed actions, while outcomes of the session were included in the Summit Statement.

Day 2 – Thematic sessions

Transboundary aquifers

To open the thematic session on Transboundary Aquifers, Neno Kukuric gave an overview presentation about the work that has been done in the field of transboundary groundwaters over the past 20 years.

In the last two decades substantial progress has been made in the delineation of TBAs globally and detailed assessment has been carried out on some of the world’s largest aquifers. Conversely, there are only a handful international agreements dedicated solely to groundwater and a few examples of fully operational international cooperation over TBAs. In addition, most of the world’s largest aquifers already under stress are transboundary in nature. As the pressure on groundwater resources grows due to human activity and climate change, more attention needs to be paid to the role of TBAs so as to ensure global water security.

After this session, also the Transboundary Water Cooperation Coalition was presented, with IGRAC being one of the members.

Science-policy-practice interface

As part of the session about strengthening the science-policy-practice interface, Communication Officer Stefan Siepman presented the recently launched Groundwater Catalogue. The Groundwater Catalogue is an online tool that aims to link the interface of groundwater science, policy and practice to assist decision-makers and practitioners in exploring suitable solutions for complex groundwater issues. It does this by linking resources for each of the three components of the science-policy-practice interface. It provides:

  1. Information on the role of groundwater in a range of societal and environmental topics;
  2. A comprehensive collection of policy measures, instruments, and tools that can be used for groundwater governance and management; and
  3. Case studies detailing best practice, lessons learnt and the implementation of management solutions.

At the end of his presentation, he urged all groundwater experts to create an account on www.groundwatercatalogue.org and add their case studies. 

Closing ceremony

At the official closing ceremony, Neno Kukuric reflected on the interesting insights shared at the two-day event. His speech was then followed by the presentation of the 'UN-Water joint message and call for action groundwater: The invisible resource for sustainable development'. This message is the main outcome from the summit and will be an important input for the UN 2023 Water Conference, which will take place on 22-24 in New York, USA. 

Side events

The day prior to the summit, there was a full day of side events. Three of those had IGRAC contributions.

Big Data

Claudia Ruz Vargas participated in the side event: 'Big Earth Data in Support of Groundwater Sustainable Management'. In her talk, she presented the global gravity-based groundwater product (G3P). This product based on satellite data, was developed as part of the EU Horizon 2020 project: www.g3p.eu.

Ancient groundwater heritage

IGRAC Director Elisabeth Lictevout was invited to speak in the side event on valuing ancient water cultures. In this session, ancient techniques and groundwater cultures were presented and Lictevout discussed how we could learn from these and implement them to present day challenges. In her previous position in the Northern part of Chile, Lictevout gained experience with such groundwater use heritage in arid and semi-arid areas. 

Groundwater management and sustainable solutions for food and nature

The side event 'Groundwater management and sustainable solutions for food and nature' was organised by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water management of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. IGRAC staff members Elisabeth Lictevout and Stefan Siepman offered both logistical and content-wise support to this session. 

Three case studies were discussed during this session: 

  • Land subsidence in Japan, by: Makoto Taniguchi;
  • Salinisation challenges in India, by: Yogesh Jadeja; and 
  • Communal water boards in Costa Rica, by: Gabriela Cuadrado Quesada. 

Special Envoy for Water, Henk Ovink, then identified lessons learnt to carry on to the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York, USA.


Joint message and call for action

The 'UN-Water joint message and call for action groundwater: The invisible resource for sustainable development' was the main outcome from the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022 and is now available for download: