Groundwater takes centre stage at World Water Forum 9 in Dakar

From 21-26 March 2022, the water world met in Diamniadio (Dakar), Senegal, for the 9th World Water Forum. With the pivot event of World Water Day 2022, with the theme ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’, taking place at this forum, groundwater played a bigger role than ever. As co-coordinator of this year’s World Water Day, IGRAC was well-represented in several sessions. 

Launch of World Water Development Report 

On the first conference day, UNESCO WWAP launched the 2022 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report, which follows the same theme as the world water day. The report describes the challenges and opportunities associated with the development, management and governance of groundwater across the world. After the official launch at the Dakar Arena, the full report was made available for download in English and French, while the executive summary is even available English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Italian, Korean, Hindi, Chinese, German and Portuguese

IGRAC contribution to WWDR2022 

Together with UNESCO-IHP, IGRAC led chapter 9 on building and updating the knowledge base, with IGRAC staff Arnaud Sterckx, Claudia Ruz Vargas and Neno Kukuric as authors. The latter also contributed as author to chapter 11 on groundwater management. Finally, a substantial contribution to chapter 12 on transboundary aquifers was made by Christina Fraser. 

Exchange between transboundary aquifers on three continents 

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WWF SMAB session 3

Later that day, a special session was held about the management of transboundary groundwater resources. It included a high-level panel about the Senegal-Mauritania Aquifer Basin (SMAB). The session aimed to allow for an exchange of experience between the newly formed SMAB regional working group and the first aquifer where a transboundary agreement was made (the Genevois, 40 years of history), as well as the large Guarani aquifer. IGRAC Researcher Christina Fraser explained how, although all three aquifers are at different stages of cooperation, the underlying importance of transboundary aquifer assessment remains the same. She explained how IGRAC have provided the SMAB regional working group with technical assistance since 2020 and stated that the centre is ready to continue supporting not only these activities, but all transboundary aquifer activities globally.

Celebration of World Water Day 2022

The 22nd of March marked the second day of the forum, but also the annual celebration of the World Water Day. The pivot event of the World Water Day took place in the main auditorium of the CICAD conference centre and attracted a big audience. After opening remarks by UNESCO-IHP Secretary Abou Amani and the Minister of Water and Sanitation Senegal, several high-level statements were given, both on-site and on video. Subsequently, IGRAC moderated an expert panel about taking stock and future challenges, with representatives of AMCOW, UNECE, IWMI and the government of Tunisia. The World Water Day celebration was naturally followed up by a high-level panel, facilitated by UNESCO and UN-Water.  

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World Water Day Celebration

Groundwater catalogue for informed policy development and management interventions 

The last World Water Day session with IGRAC participation was about the Groundwater Catalogue. This session, moderated by Christina Fraser and introduced by Neno Kukuric, introduced the pilot version of the catalogue and had the objective to receive useful feedback to further improve it. The catalogue should enable policy and decision-makers to better explore suitable solutions for complex groundwater issues, based on factsheets, case studies and references. The forum provided an opportunity to meet these policy and decision-makers, and discuss which requirements the catalogue should meet to support them. In addition, the session hosted a panel discussion with valuable interventions by Geert-Jan Nijsten (Deltares), Virginie Gillet (FAO), Neil Dhot (AquaFed), Moustapha Diene (Cheikh Anta Diop University) and Joel Podgorski (EAWAG).  

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Geert-Jan Nijsten (Deltares)
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Christina Fraser (IGRAC)
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Neno Kukuric (IGRAC)

Promoting sustainable development by improving knowledge and governance of transboundary groundwater resources

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On Wednesday, UNESCO-IHP and UNECE organized a session on transboundary aquifers. This session had the goal to present global initiatives and concrete examples of cooperation over groundwater resources of transboundary aquifers contributing to foster cooperation and preventing conflicts. In his presentation, Neno Kukuric looked back on the past 20 years of assessing transboundary groundwaters, with all its achievements and challenges. The second IGRAC intervention was done by Christina Fraser. She presented on the way forward with improved assessment and management of transboundary aquifers. Moreover, she explained the steps that need to be taken to reach directed and priority-based actions within a transboundary aquifer.