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Capacity building for sustainable utilization, management and protection of internationally shared groundwater in the Mediterranean region

Background:

With growing water scarcity and quality deterioration in many Mediterranean in addition to the current trends of increasing droughts and climate change, the contribution and role of internationally shared aquifers in meeting the growing water demand is likely to increase, thereby increasing competition over these fragile resources. Cooperative arrangements to jointly develop, manage and protect shared aquifers will become a necessity, not only to avoid conflict but also to optimise utilization and to achieve water security.

As much as 80% of the water resources in the Mediterranean region are shared water resources, with groundwater constituting more than 60% of the total available freshwater resources in the ESCWA region and is the major source of water for the North African Member States of ECA.

A substantial experience with management tools for monitoring, assessment and management of internationally shared ground waters is available at regional level, especially within ECE. In the Western Asia region, ESCWA has been involved in various aspects of interstate cooperation in the management of shared aquifers. ESCWA is planning to introduce a framework convention for groundwater management in the Western Asia region.

Objective:

Strengthen the capacity of water management institutions in the Mediterranean region to implement sustainable forms of utilization, management and protection of internationally shared groundwater resources. The project will contribute to water sustainability and the availability of water for drinking and food production contributing to the fulfilment of the MDGs on access to safe drinking water supplies and poverty and hunger eradication.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased awareness and application by Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (MEDA) countries of the international norms in sustainable management of shared aquifers (technical, legal, institutional, social, economic and environmental dimensions)
  • Strengthened capability of MEDA countries to engage in inter-State cooperation regarding shared aquifers
  • Know-how transferred and exchanged on various shared aquifer management issues, the establishment of mechanisms for inter-State cooperation regarding shared aquifers and the management of data on shared aquifers
  • Strengthened capability of Member States to plan and manage their (national and international) water resources, by using the tools developed in this project (i.e., the revised water visions/forecasts and the database on regional groundwater availabilities, uses and demands in the MEDA region)
  • Demonstration of the value and use of the guidelines and policy framework in two case studies, one in the eastern and one in the western MEDA region
  • Transfer and exchange of know-how on modelling, data analysis, and protection of shared aquifers

Implementation status:

A study on "Policy Framework for supporting the Establishment of Mechanisms for Interstate Cooperation on Shared Groundwater Aquifers in the MEDA Region" was completed and discussed with stakeholders from the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership member states and with partner organizations. Stakeholders were very interested in such a framework. A workshop on "Formulation of a policy framework to support the establishment of mechanisms for inter-State cooperation on shared groundwater aquifers in the Mediterranean region" was held in Beirut from 24 to 25 April 2006 to review and discuss the draft policy framework. A new partnership was established between the ESCWA and the Research Institute for Ground Water (RIGW) in Egypt. The two organizations agreed to co-organize two training seminars on modeling and data analysis and on protection of shared aquifers at the Regional Center for Training and Water Studies in Cairo, aiming to strengthen regional capacity in shared aquifer management. A training seminar on "Ground water modeling and data analysis" took place between 2 and 7 December 2006 at the Regional Center for Training and Water Studies, Egypt. The seminar aimed at strengthening the capacity of targeted beneficiaries to plan and manage groundwater resources.