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Management of transboundary groundwaters

The issue of the transboundary groundwater management has always been high on the Water Convention Agenda. In 2006 the UNECE secretariat published the Strategies for Monitoring and Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters  that intend to assist policy and decision makers, representatives of joint bodies, and water managers responsible for establishing and carrying out cooperation between riparian countries. In addition significant work on monitoring of transboundary aquifers has been carried out in the framework of the preparations of the first and second Assessments of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters.

Moreover, the Meeting of the Parties at its fifth session entrusted the Legal Board and the Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management to jointly prepare a preliminary study on the application of the principles of the Convention to transboundary groundwater, to be submitted to the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties for consideration as whether further action is needed.

During the seventh meeting of the Legal Board (Geneva, 15-16 April 2010), there was general agreement to the effect that the issue would require a gradual course of action. Namely, the Legal Board asked the Chair to first prepare a preliminary document containing an explicatory recognition of existing provisions relevant to groundwater so far produced within UNECE legally binding, as well as soft-law, instruments, in order to enable the Legal Board and the Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management to decide on which further action to be taken. This document has been considered during the eighth meeting of the Legal Board (24-25 February 2011). The aim of the study was to help Parties to the Convention to identify groundwaters falling under its scope of application, to identify the regularory setting of groundwaters provided in the Convention and provide some practical tools for its application to groundwaters. On the basis of this study, the Legal Board discussed the possibility of additional action, besides the explanatory study, with respect to groundwaters.

It was decided to elaborate a set of model law provisions serving as a guidance for drafting bilateral or multilateral agreements or protocols on transboundary groundwater. This led to the Model Provisions on Transboundary Groundaters.

In addition a workshop on transboundary groundwater management was organized in the framework of the Capacity for Water Cooperation (CWC) project in the second half of 2011.

Groundwater management is also addressed in the Water Convention’s Protocol on Water and Health. The Protocol sets out the obligations for its Parties in the areas of water supply and sanitation which require respective action for the management and protection of groundwaters that, whether in domestic or transboundary aquifers, should be considered as one of the sources of water supply.