Putting a spotlight on groundwater during the 10th World Water Forum

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Once every three years the water world gathers at the World Water Forum for political, scientific and technical discussions on the world’s most pressing water challenges. Last week, Indonesia hosted the 10th edition and IGRAC was there to advocate for more sustainable and equitable groundwater management, as well as the crucial role that (open) data and information play in the decision-making that should lead to this. The IGRAC contributions covered a broad range of topics, from disaster risks to groundwater governance, from freshwater ecosystems to hydro-diplomacy, and from data for decision-making to storytelling in water.

Groundwater in disaster risk

While the official opening took place on Monday, for IGRAC the forum already started on Sunday. Our Director Elisabeth Lictevout was invited to join the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel (HELP) on water and disasters. HELP convenes twice a year to discuss the world’s most pressing challenges related to water. With ‘groundwater’ identified as one of those and IGRAC being tasked to develop a flagship initiative around this topic. During the meeting in Bali, Elisabeth gave a progress update for the initiative that aims to visualise the role of groundwater in disaster risks.

Upscaling data into information for decision-making

The Tuesday was dedicated to the importance of upscaling data into actionable information and showcase tools and best practices to harness the potential of data for water policy decision-making. In this session, organised by FAO, Elisabeth joined as panellist of the roundtable about tools that can be used to convert raw data into actionable information. She presented the entire process of groundwater level monitoring. This ranged from data management (and the GGMN) to analysis and production of information on the quantitative status of groundwater, but also the visualisation of this information that can then be used by decision-makers to take informed decisions. With the Global Groundwater Monitoring Network being one of IGRAC core activities since its establishment and turning data into information for decision-making being IGRAC’s raison d'être, this session fitted IGRAC as a glove.  

Groundwater governance 

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Elisabeth at Groundwater Governance session
Elisabeth Lictevout at Groundwater Governance session

On Wednesday, OSS organised a session that aimed to look into the challenges and solutions towards better groundwater governance, focusing on best-practice examples from national and subnational governments, civil society, businesses and academia from across the world. It provided a platform for voices with a strong stake in good groundwater governance. Elisabeth provided the closing, concluding remarks for this session that contributed to promoting better governance of groundwater in order to move towards sustainable groundwater management.

Fighting climate change with freshwater ecosystems

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Elisabeth during ecosystems session
Elisabeth during ecosystems session

On the same day, a side event took place with the aim to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including environmental experts, policy makers, private and public donors and conservation practitioners. This session, organised by the Foundation Prince Albert II of Monaco, showcased the importance of freshwater ecosystems for climate regulation, biodiversity conservation and human well-being. It also included successful examples of conservation and restoration initiatives, highlighting the transformative power of targeted financial investment, and a discussion on innovative financing mechanisms that can be mobilised to support the conservation and restoration of freshwater ecosystems. As a panellist, Elisabeth Lictevout answered questions and stressed the importance of groundwater to sustain many freshwater ecosystems, the need for more knowledge and an interdisciplinary approach to the study and management of such ecosystems.

Storytelling workshop for young water professionals

On Thursday, the entire afternoon was fully focused on youth. Wavemakers United organised its second ‘Future is Now’ event, which included a storytelling workshop as well. In this one-hour interactive workshop, Stefan Siepman introduced the audience to storytelling concepts and structures, but also gave hands-on tips and tricks on how to apply them in work-related scenarios. After Stefan’s presentation, the audience got divided into small groups of three to jointly identify potential story ideas. From those ideas, one was selected to further develop into a story with several angles and arches until it was ready to present to the others. Finally, one of each group took the stage to tell the story to the rest of the audience.

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Stefan Siepman hosting storytelling workshop
Stefan Siepman hosting storytelling workshop

This workshop was well connected to IGRAC’s work with the Groundwater Correspondents Network. In this network, Stefan serves as coordinator, mentor and editor when working with local groundwater enthusiasts who have stories to tell that deserve a global platform. By the end of the workshop, Stefan, therefore, also referred to the recently launched magazine and the currently open call for applications to become part of the network.

Groundwater hydro-diplomacy in Africa

With the closing of the forum in sight, the Friday morning of OSS had the objective to promote hydro-diplomacy in Africa through concrete examples of management of transboundary groundwater resources sometimes interconnected with surface waters. It is also to encourage the establishment of a cooperation framework between riparian countries sharing these water resources for their inclusive and peaceful management. IGRAC’s Director provided the introduction of the session, stressing that, in transboundary aquifers, as in any other aquifer, the first step is data and information to build the knowledge base. The challenge of this transboundary context, however, is that the knowledge base will not be built without data and information sharing. This is therefore the most important step. Besides political support, stakeholder consultation, and the identification of a structure for transboundary aquifer management, having groundwater professionals in the organisational structure is also key to success.