By Kirstin I. Conti and Joyeeta Gupta.
A normative framework for the governance of groundwater is emerging at the global level. However, existing analyses have not comprehensively covered all the governance texts that have a bearing on transboundary groundwater resources or looked at them from the perspective of sustainable groundwater governance. Therefore, this paper responds to the questions:
- What are the global governance texts (including international laws) applicable to groundwater resources?
- To which forms of the resource do they apply?
- Which principles have been included over time?
- What are the implications for sustainable development of groundwater resources now and in the future?
The analysis highlights key groundwater concepts, discusses twelve global groundwater governance texts and the thirty principles therein, classifies the principles into ideal–typical categories based on the sustainable development concept; and assesses the gaps and conflicts between the principles and texts. The paper has three key findings. First, groundwater governance is rapidly evolving and there are a number of principles available to promote sustainable development. Second, however, these collective principles do not adequately address (a) the link with all water resources; (b) the potential impact of climate change on water resources; and (c) the impact of trade on equitable sharing of groundwater and protection of groundwater-related ecosystems. Third, to the extent that this collection of principles can contribute to sustainable development, they are inconsistently included in the legally binding groundwater governance texts. Therefore, much progress is needed to ensure a global normative framework that can guide the sustainable governance of groundwater resources.