On 6 - 8 December, the ISARM 2010 International conference on Transboundary Aquifers, Challenges and new directions, successfully took place at the UNESCO premises in Paris. During these days, more than 300 hydrogeologists, water resources managers, legal experts, social scientists, diplomats and others experts looked backwards, discussed and learned from the first phase of the ISARM program. Naturally, the group looked forward as well and discussed which challenges are ahead and which directions need to be explored and chosen in the field of internationally shared aquifers.

The worldwide ISARM (Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management) Initiative is the UNESCO and IAH led multi-agency effort (since 2002) aimed at improving the understanding of scientific, socio-economic, legal, institutional and environmental issues related to the management of transboundary aquifers.

This conference particularly addressed institutional and legal issues arising from current practices, embodied in legal instruments of cooperation. Consider how the principles of international law could contribute to the sustainable management of transboundary aquifers and their dependent ecosystems. Two high-level panels discussed the UNILC Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Articles and on the link between the recent UNGA Resolution (A/RES/64/292) on "The Human Right to Water and Sanitation" and the management of shared transboundary groundwater resources.

Experts from across the globe presented and discussed more than 100 technical papers and posters in four parallel sessions dealing with:

  • Global overview of transboundary aquifer systems: Regional inventories and case studies;  Sharing data and information;
  • Managing transboundary aquifers, Challenges and opportunities: Lessons learned and best practices; Assessing the impacts of global changes to groundwater resources and managing aquifer system's response;
  • Building capacities and strengthening institutions: Legal and institutional advances - Regional agencies and organizations; Multilateral agreements, interstate cooperation - Training, education and technical assistance needs; Water law and environmental concerns - Globalization and virtual water flow;
  • Strengthening cooperation: Benefits of cooperation and impact of conflicts; Techniques for conflict anticipation, prevention, mediation, negotiation and resolution.

From its start, IGRAC has been actively participating in the ISARM program. IGRAC contributed to the regional assessment of transboundary aquifers of the Americas and facilitated training courses on transboundary aquifer management for the ISARM SADC network in the period 2006-2009. The 2009 update of the Transboundary Aquifers Map of the World produced by IGRAC is widely used by the international groundwater community. Additionally, we facilitate the web-portal of the ISARM program.

We were actively involved in the conference. In its preparations, IGRAC was part of the Organizing committee and Scientific advisory committee. Neno Kukuric moderated one of the technical sessions. He and Cheryl van Kempen presented a technical paper on Global information sharing on Transboundary aquifers. Frank van Weert presented a technical paper on addressing socio-economic and institutional dimensions of transboundary aquifer management by means of hydro-economic modelling and serious gaming. Additionally IGRAC presented its contributions to a number of GEF International Water Projects: GEF Science, GEF Transboundary Water Assessment Program (TWAP) methodology development and GEF DIKTAS on the management of the transboundary aquifers in the dinaric karst area in the Balkan. Finally, Neno Kukuric moderated the 2-day pilot course on integrated transboundary groundwater management following the conference.