Highlighting the pivotal role of data in improving groundwater management in Arab region


This week, Egypt was the home of the annual Cairo Water Week and this edition evolved around the theme ‘Action on Water Adaptation for Sustainability’. This water week also hosted a 2-day Expert Group meeting, aiming to work towards improved groundwater management in the Arab region. IGRAC Groundwater Specialists Claudia Ruz Vargas and Elie Gerges presented at this meeting, organised by ESCWA and the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD).

On 30-31 October, government officials and groundwater experts gathered in Cairo to discuss how groundwater management in the Arab region could be improved through enhanced data and information access as well as innovative technologies.

Enhanced data & information access

After the opening remarks, the meeting focused on regional and global groundwater knowledge frameworks. In light of this global perspective, Claudia Ruz Vargas presented IGRAC’s Global Groundwater Information System (GGIS). She showed thematic maps on groundwater quality and transboundary aquifers, but also groundwater monitoring times series, all available in the GGIS. Claudia then proceeded to explain the importance of open access data and information, by showing the groundwater status reporting done by IGRAC in cooperation with ten countries under the umbrella of the WMO Status of the World Resources 2022 report. She also invited the attending country representatives to do the same with them in future editions of the report.

The afternoon session zoomed in on what is being done on regional and national level in terms of groundwater monitoring and data dissemination. ACSAD started by giving a process update on their efforts to produce a new Arab Hydrogeological Map. Consequently, national teams from Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia and Yemen shared the status of their groundwater monitoring networks.

Innovative technologies 

The second day was all about the use of innovative technologies for groundwater management, and earth observation appeared to be the common thread throughout this session. Several presentations covered the use of the GRACE satellite data for groundwater assessment, including pilot case studies in Jordan and Palestine. IGRAC contributed to this second day’s programme, by sharing its experiences as part of the G3P project. Elie Gerges explained the potential, but also the uncertainties and challenges when using satellite data for groundwater monitoring. One of his main conclusions was that G3P has great potential to complement in-situ groundwater monitoring, rather than to replace it. The validation of the G3P product with in-situ data, conducted by IGRAC, was therefore an important part of his presentation.

Overall, this expert group meeting was an interesting and fruitful gathering, focusing on a particularly groundwater-dependent region.