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ii. International Non-Binding Instruments

36. United Nations Water Conference - Mar del Plata Action Plan [1977][94]

Chapter I - Mar del Plata Action Plan



A. Assessment of water resources

1. In most countries there are serious inadequacies in the availability of data on water resources, particularly in relation to ground water and water quality. Hitherto, relatively little importance has been attached to its systematic measurement. The processing and compilation of data have also been seriously neglected.

2. To improve the management of water resources, greater knowledge about their quantity and quality is needed. Regular and systematic collection of hydrometeorological, hydrological and hydrogeological data needs to be promoted and be accompanied by a system for processing quantitative and qualitative information for various types of water bodies. The data should be used to estimate available precipitation, surface-water and ground water resources and the potentials for augmenting these resources. Countries should review, strengthen and co-ordinate arrangements for the collection of basic data. Network densities should be improved; mechanisms for data collection, processing and publication and arrangement for monitoring water quality should be reinforced.

3. To this end, it is recommended that countries should:


(c) Establish observation networks and strengthen existing systems and facilities for measurements and recording fluctuations in ground-water quality and level; organize the collection of all existing data on ground water (borehole logs, geological structure, and hydrogeological characteristics, etc.) systematically index such data, and attempt a quantitative assessment so as to determine the present status of and gaps in knowledge; increase the search for, and determination of, the variables of aquifers, with an evaluation of their potential and the possibilities of recharge;


(f) Make periodic assessments of surface- and ground-water resources, including rainfall, evaporation and run-off, lakes, lagoons, glaciers and snowfields, both for individual basins and at the national level, in order to determine a programme of investigation for the future in relation to development needs; intensify programmes already under way and formulate new programmes wherever needed;


(j) Co-operate in the co-ordination, collection and exchange of relevant data in the case of shared resources;


(o) Provide for the studying and analysing of hydrological data on surface and ground water by mutlidisciplinary [sic] teams so as to make adequate information available for planning purposes;


4. International organizations and other supporting bodies should, as appropriate, and on request, take the following action:


(b) Groundwater

(i) Offer assistance for the establishment or strengthening of observational networks for recording quantitative and qualitative characteristics of ground-water resources;

(ii) Offer assistance for the establishment of ground-water data banks and for reviewing the studies, locating gaps and formulating programmes of future investigations and prospection;

(iii) Offer help, including personnel and equipment, to make available the use of advanced techniques, such as geophysical methods, nuclear techniques, mathematical models, etc.


B. Water use and efficiency


Efficiency and efficacy in regulation and distribution of the resources

9. National mechanisms for the management of water resources should apply the best measures to improve the existing systems and the best available techniques for planning and design of conservation and distribution systems in the most efficient way and should equally attend to proper maintenance, control at the regional, national and farm level and operation of delivery systems to increase efficiency.

10. To this end, it is recommended that:

(a) Measures be taken to utilize ground-water aquifers in the form of collective and integrated systems, whenever possible and useful, taking into account the regulation and use of surface-water resources. This will provide an opportunity to exploit the ground-water aquifers to their physical limits, to protect spring and ground water from overdraught and salinity, as well as to ensure proper sharing of the resources;

(b) Studies should explore the potential of ground-water basins, the use of aquifers as storage and distribution systems, and the conjunctive use of surface and subsurface resources to maximize efficacy and efficiency;


Community water supply and waste disposal


17. International organizations and other supporting bodies should, as appropriate, and on request, take the following action:


(v) Support research, development and demonstration in relation to predominant needs, particularly:

(a) Low-cost ground-water pumping equipment;


Agricultural water use

18. The increase of agricultural production and productivity should be aimed at achieving optimum yield in food production by a definite date, and at a significant improvement in total agricultural production as early as possible. Measures to attain these objectives should receive the appropriate high priority. Particular attention should be given to land and water management both under irrigated and rainfed cultivation, with due regard to long-term as well as short-term productivity. National legislation and policies should provide for the properly integrated management of land and water resources. Countries should, when reviewing national policies, institutions and legislation, ensure the co-ordination of activities and services involved in irrigation and drainage development and management. It is necessary to expand the use of water for agriculture together with an improvement in efficiency of use. This should be achieved through funding, providing the necessary infrastructure and reducing losses in transit, in distribution and on the farm, and avoiding the use of wasteful irrigation practices, to the extent possible. Each country should apply known techniques for the prevention and control of land and water degradation resulting from improper management. Countries should give early attention to the improvement of existing irrigation and drainage projects,

19. In this context, countries should:

(a) Bear in mind principles of integrated land and water management when reviewing national policies, administrative arrangements and legislation, and pay heed to the need to augment present levels of agricultural production;

(b) Undertake or continue studies on the relationship between land use and the elements of the hydrological cycle at the national and international levels;


(d) Plan and carry out irrigation programmes in such a way as to ensure that surface and subsurface drainage are treated as integral components and that provision of all requirements is co-ordinated with a view to optimizing the use of water and associated land resources;

(e) Provide financial resources and qualified manpower services for better water-use and management practices, proper maintenance, control and operation of distribution systems, and joint use of surface and ground water and eventually waste water, paying due attention to the needs of small-scale agriculture;


20. To this end it is recommended that:

(a) The institutional machinery responsible for water management should possess sufficient means and powers for the management of water for agricultural purposes, bearing in mind the physical interdependence of surface and ground water and in accordance with all its uses;


C. Environment, health and pollution control

34. Large-scale water-development projects have important environmental repercussions of a physical, chemical, biological, social and economic nature, which should be evaluated and taken into consideration in the formulation and implementation of water projects. Furthermore, water-development projects may have unforeseen adverse consequences affecting human health in addition to those associated with the use of water for domestic purposes. Water pollution from sewage and industrial effluents and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture is on the increase in many countries. It is also recognized that control measures regarding the discharge of urban, industrial and mining effluents are inadequate. Increased emphasis must be given to the question of water pollution, within the over-all context of waste management.


Pollution control

38. Concerted and planned action is necessary to avoid and combat the effects of pollution in order to protect and improve where necessary the quality of water resources.

39. To this end it is recommended that countries should:

(a) Conduct surveys of present levels of pollution in surface-water and ground-water resources, and establish monitoring networks for the detection of pollution;


(f) Conduct research on and measurement of the pollution of surface and ground water by agricultural fertilizers and biocides with a view to lessening their adverse environmental impact;


(m) Promote the use of infiltration techniques when the nature of the effluents and the terrain makes it possible to do so without endangering surface and ground-water resources;


(o) Apply appropriate land-use planning as a tool for preventing water pollution, especially in the case of ground water;


[Omitted: D. Policy, planning and management]

E. Natural hazards


Drought loss management

66. In the recent past droughts of exceptional severity have caused major hardships in many areas of the world. Such disasters can arise again at any time. In consequence, steps to mitigate the effects of drought in such areas is a top priority. In order to remedy the situation, structural and non-structural and emergency measures should be adopted and for this purpose the development and management of water resources as well as drought forecasting on a long-term basis should be viewed as a key element,

67. There is a need to develop improved bases for planning land and water management in order to make optimum use of land and water resources in areas subject to severe drought. Comprehensive programmes should be formulated for the progressive implementation of the development of water resources for the benefit of drought-affected areas: specific short-term and long-term objectives, as well as targets, should be outlined. There is also a need to study basic meteorological processes with a view to formulating long-term forecasts in weather behaviour in any given area.

68. To this end, it is recommended that countries should:


(d) Intensify the exploration of ground water through geophysical and hydrogeological investigations and undertake on a regional scale large-scale programmes for the development of wells and boreholes, to be explored in groups where appropriate for water for human and livestock consumption, taking into account the needs of pastures while preventing overgrazing and avoiding overexploitation of underground aquifers;

(e) Determine the effect of drought on aquifers and in the assessment of the response of ground-water systems to drought, basing such assessment on concepts such as storage/flow ratio in order to characterize ground-water flow regions in periods of drought;


(n) Study the potential role of integration of surface and underground phases of water basins utilizing the stocks of water stored in ground-water formations in order to maintain a minimum supply under drought conditions.


F. Public information, education, training and research


Research needs


82. To this end it is recommended that countries should:


(f) Promote research into problems of methodologies for the assessment of supplies of surface and ground-water resources, and for their use, development and management. Research organizations should use their resources first for applied research and application of research results already available to solve some of the most urgent national problems. As scientific personnel and equipment become available, more basic research may be undertaken and also research into high-technology fields;

(g) Promote research in areas related to their respective needs including where relevant:


Artificial recharge of aquifers


Contamination of groundwaters


[Omitted: G. Regional co-operation]

H. International co-operation


Technical co-operation among developing countries

99. The promotion of technical co-operation among developing countries will supplement, upgrade and give a new dimension to the traditional forms of bilateral and multilateral development co-operation to help the developing countries achieve greater intrinsic self-reliance. The development of water resources in developing countries provides a promising area where technical co-operation among developing countries can be achieved. Many developing countries have expertise and capacity which they can share with other developing countries. Alternate appropriate technologies have been developed and many developing countries have reached the stage of self-reliance in water-resource development to enable them to apply the more appropriate techniques using the latest know-how and promote better understanding among the countries concerned. This can be adapted to the needs of other developing countries by means of technical co-operation among developing countries.


102. In the light of these considerations it is recommended that where appropriate countries should at the national, regional and subregional level:


(e) Identify programmes for water resources development that can be achieved through technical co-operation among developing countries in specific sectors such as community water supply, irrigation, drainage, hydroelectric generation, the development and management of transboundary water resources, groundwater development, and means for the prevention and reduction of losses due to floods and droughts and pollution control, water legislation and training, transfer of technology suited to the requirements of the developing countries and the general development of such technology;


[Omitted: Annex - Specific regional recommendations]


[Omitted: I - Assessment of water resources, II - Community water supply, III - Agricultural water use, IV - Research and development of industrial technologies]

V. Role of water in combating desertification

The United Nations Water Conference,

Bearing in mind the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on the Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972,

Taking into account the urgent need for concerted action to combat desertification and the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Desertification,


5. Recommends further that in most countries facing problems of desertification, urgent action is necessary to:


(b) Intensify and improve the arrangements existing for the assessment of water resources - surface as well as ground water;

(c) Consider, on the basis of prior environmental and health impact studies, a programme of surface and ground-water use and conservation with intensive mobilization of public participation on the basis of self-help. Such a programme should provide for the construction and maintenance of existing small dams or wells, with appropriate national and international assistance;


(e) Set up appropriate institutional arrangements at the national and regional levels in order that adequate attention be given to the problems of management and development of surface and ground-water resources in arid and semi-arid regions, including collation of related policies, promotion of efficient use of water by developing appropriate technologies, including the application of water-saving technologies;


VI. Technical co-operation among developing countries in the water sector

The United Nations Water Conference,


5. Recommends further that the United Nations Development Programme in co-operation with the regional commissions and the United Nations system assist in promoting programmes of technical co-operation among developing countries in the field of water-resources development, which may include such areas as surface and ground-water development, drainage and reclamation, hydropower development and inland navigation;


[Omitted: VII - River commissions, VIII - Institutional arrangements for international co-operation in the water sector, IX - Financing arrangements for international co-operation in the water sector, X - Water policies in the occupied territories; Chapter II - Other resolutions: XI - Question of the Panama Canal Zone, XII - Expression of thanks to the host country]

37. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe - Charter on Groundwater Management [1989][95]


Groundwater - as a natural resource with both ecological and economic value - is of vital importance for sustaining life, health and the integrity of ecosystems. This resource is, however, increasingly threatened by over-use and insidious long-term effects of pollution. Pollution comes from both point sources and diffuse sources. Potential risks or actual impacts could permanently impair underground water resources, with far-reaching and unpredictable implications for present and future generations. Action is urgently needed. The Charter on Groundwater Management provides policy measures for such action.

The adoption of the Charter by the member Governments of the Economic Commission for Europe was the culmination of intense regional co-operation aimed at reaching agreement on common policies for the protection of this vital natural resource. Prepared by the Senior Advisers to ECE Governments on Environmental and Water Problems, assisted by the Working Party on Water Problems, the Charter builds on the results of extensive experience. It reflects, in particular, the outcome of two special meetings devoted to the subject: the Seminar on Groundwater Protection Strategies and Practices, held in Athens (Greece) in 1983 and the Seminar on Protection of Soil and Aquifers against Non-point Source Pollution, held in Madrid (Spain) in 1987.

The Charter on Groundwater Management gives broad support to ECE member Governments in their common endeavours to protect groundwater by providing planners and decision-makers with appropriate policy instruments. Publication of the Charter is intended to heighten public awareness of the need for concerted action to protect groundwater. The Commission has recommended that member Governments apply the provisions of the Charter when formulating, adopting and implementing water-related policies and strategies at both national and international levels.



I. Groundwater policy

Governments should formulate and adopt a long-term policy to protect groundwater by preventing pollution and overuse. This policy should be comprehensive and implemented at all appropriate levels. It should be consistent with other water-management policies and be duly taken into account in other sectorial policies.

II. Groundwater strategies

1. As groundwater should be recognized as a natural resource with economic and ecological value, groundwater strategies should aim at the sustainable use of groundwater and preservation of its quality. These strategies should be flexible so as to respond to changing conditions and various regional and local situations.

2. Groundwater pollution is interrelated with the pollution of other environmental media (surface water, soils, atmosphere). Groundwater protection planning should be incorporated into general environmental protection planning.

3. Protection measures aimed at prevention of groundwater pollution and over-use should be the basic tools for groundwater management. Such protection measures include, inter alia, monitoring of groundwaters, development of aquifer vulnerability maps, regulations for industry and waste disposal sites paying due account to groundwater protection considerations, geo-ecological assessment of the impact of industrial and agricultural activities on groundwaters, and zoning of groundwater protection areas.

III. Integration of instruments

1. In formulating and implementing national groundwater policy, legal, administrative and regulatory measures should be co-ordinated with the best available technologies and economic instruments.

2. Integrated water management should be promoted by paying equal attention to both quantity and quality aspects of groundwater. Likewise, emphasis should be placed on the co-ordinated management of groundwater and surface water, while taking into account the distinguishing features of groundwater as compared to surface water which necessitate special protective measures for aquifers.

IV. Groundwater allocation

An appropriate policy should be adopted for preferential allocation of groundwater, giving appropriate weight to competitive uses and balancing short-term demands with long-term objectives in the interest of present and future generations. In allocating groundwater resources, account should be taken of the amount of groundwater in reserve and of the rate of its replenishment. Allocation of high-quality groundwater only to uses demanding high-quality water, in particular for human and animal consumption, should be encouraged. More emphasis should be given to the nature conservation value provided by groundwater resources, in particular where nature protection areas are vulnerable to changes in groundwater conditions.

V. Groundwater legislation

1. Provisions of the Charter should be applied in national groundwater legislation. Legal provisions specific to peculiarities of groundwater management should be formulated and promulgated. Legislation should contain provisions for its effective implementation including the mandate, competence and power of the relevant authorities in accordance with uniform principles, e.g. as set out in this document. Governments' rights to control groundwater abstraction and use as well as all activities with a potential impact on the quantity and quality of groundwater resources should be recognized by legislation.

2. Adequate definitions of groundwater characteristics, use and protection should be formulated and integrated into legislation with a view to avoiding ambiguities and thus facilitate implementation of legal provisions for groundwater management.

3. Ownership with respect to groundwater should be clearly defined in a water act or code depending on national legislation. Groundwater should be declared in the public domain or authority should be vested in Government to restrict, in the public interest, the rights accruing from its private ownership. New legislation should strive towards changing ownership rights into groundwater use rights subject to a government-controlled permit system. To this end, it would be necessary to draw up precise rules concerning the selection of criteria applicable for the recognition of groundwater use rights and for the granting of permits taking into account orders of priority for the allocation of available water. Such rules should also determine conditions of transfer, modification or abolition of use rights. Priorities to use groundwater, however, should be kept flexible so as to satisfy present and future requirements such as socio-economic factors.

VI. Competence

1. Water authorities or co-ordinating bodies should have the competence to integrate all aspects of water management and should be rendered competent to arbitrate among the various competing demands, and diverging interests regarding groundwater abstraction and use, both short- and long-term. The authority or body should collaborate with other authorities, competent for public health, land-use planning, soils' management, waste management, etc. Legislation should provide administrative mechanisms for emergency cases and should empower the competent authorities to act immediately against damage.

2. The territorial competence of such authorities with respect to groundwater management should not necessarily be limited to either administrative boundaries or catchment areas but should allow for encompassing, as appropriate, management of aquifers in their entirety. The work of these authorities should be supp6rted and facilitated by providing them with the resources necessary for the proper discharge of their functions.

3. Regulations, within the framework of legislation mentioned above, should define the actions to be taken by competent authorities in case of accidental pollution or other emergencies impacting on groundwater.

VII. Economic measures

1. Economic measures such as fees and waste-disposal charges should be applied in co-ordination and have sufficient impact to constitute an effective incentive to use groundwater rationally or be a disincentive to polluting aquifers.

2. The abstraction of groundwater could be subjected to differentiated fees in proportion to the volume abstracted, in relation to the available resource or according to the anticipated use of the abstracted groundwater, while complying with legal provisions and regulations governing the applied permit system.

3. Costs attributable to pollution should be borne by the polluter whenever the latter can be identified. Serious consideration should be given to all possible economic measures which could have an influence on preventing, mitigating and counteracting damage as well as those bearing on remedying critical situations caused by pollution or over-exploitation of aquifers.

VIII. Permit and penalty system

An appropriate and effective permit and penalty system should be introduced and administered by the competent authorities. The system should promote preventive approaches inducing users to control any activity affecting the quantity and quality of groundwater.

IX. Exploration and abstraction permits

Permits for groundwater exploration or prospection should be granted by the responsible authority separately from those for groundwater abstraction or use because of the functional difference between the sinking of an exploration well and the large-scale exploitation of aquifers. Exploration permits should have short-term duration.

X. Abstraction and recharge permits

1. Abstraction of water from aquifers and the artificial recharge of groundwater should be licensed and controlled by competent authorities according to specific requirements laid down in an appropriate permit system which should be flexible so as to adapt to site-specific conditions. The question of groundwater exploitability should be clarified on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant aspects, including ecological ones. The relevant regulations should establish the extent to which exemptions can be allowed in cases of, for example, groundwater abstraction for households and dystems[sic] for draining fields. Where compatible with national legislation, permits for groundwater abstraction and use as well as pollution control should not release the user of groundwater from responsibility in case of detrimental effects on groundwater quality and quantity as a result of interventions covered by the permit granted.

2. Specifications of licences should include, inter alia, the purpose, amount, location, duration and technical characteristics of abstraction, as well as the legal status of the groundwater user.

3. Authorization for artificially recharging the aquifer should be granted only if the hydrogeological situation, environmental conditions and the recharge-water quality permit injection, percolation or infiltration of water by artificial means into aquifers for storage and retrieval of good-quality water as well as for restoring over-exploited groundwater resources. For induced recharge from adjacent streams or lakes, appropriate security measures should be applied to forestall accidental pollution.

4. Appropriate measures should be taken to combat saltwater encroachment into coastal aquifers. In such areas special regulations for groundwater abstraction should be enforced to avoid seepage into aquifers owing to over-pumping and the resultant lowering of the groundwater table.

XI. Pollution-control permits

1. To prevent groundwater pollution, permits issued to regulate the discharge, disposal and possibly the storage of waste should specifically take into account the vulnerability of the aquifer concerned and the provisions necessary for its protection. These provisions should, in particular apply to production, handling, trading, transporting, storage and use of potentially hazardous substances especially those which are toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative and apply above all to:

- Effluents and sludges produced by waste-water treatment plants;
- Domestic-waste disposal sites;
- Subsurface waste containment by deep-well injection or container storage as ultima ratio;
- Surface storage of wastes potentially hazardous by virtue of their chemical composition.

In permitting such activities, inter alia, the hydrogeological situation of the area should be taken into consideration. On this matter the opinion of qualified specialists should be sought in all above-mentioned cases. Continuous monitoring programmes should be set up both to control water quality in aquifers as well as for checking compliance with permits granted. The specific regulations on nuclear plants and the handling and processing of radioactive substances should include appropriate provisions for the protection of underground waters.

2. Siting of controlled waste disposal should assure that there is no immediate and/or long-term hazard to groundwater. Controlled sites should be equipped with protective installations according to the best available technology and monitored by competent authorities. Regulations or guidelines should be drawn up for the site selection of controlled waste-disposal sites, their operation, monitoring, shut-down and eventual rehabilitation, with particular emphasis on groundwater quality protection. Solid or liquid wastes which are toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative or radioactive and which put groundwater at risk should be subject to special treatment. Legislation should ban dumping of solid or liquid wastes at unauthorized sites.

3. When applying and operating pollution-control technology for cleaning gases, liquids or solids, during or after treatment processes, the pollutants concentrated in sludges, slurries, gases or solids should not be released uncontrolled into the environment and nor ultimately reach and pollute aquifers. Care should be taken so that pollutants separated from exhaust gas, flue gas and other gaseous emissions do not enter groundwater. Measures should be taken to prevent pollution by volatile organic compounds and other aerosols.

4. Pollution control at the source should cover, in particular, those pollutants which are toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative. To this end, regulatory measures and economic incentives should encourage the replacement of chemicals hazardous to groundwater by less harmful substances in industrial production processes. Similarly, regulations governing contaminants could be enforced with regard to trade, processing and transport of hazardous substances, with a view to averting or minimizing the risks of leakage into aquifers, and preventing accidental spills of hazardous substances.

5. Application of treated waste water and resulting sludge on land should be subject to licence and/or conform to nationally agreed codes of practice and be restricted to areas where there is no immediate or long-term hazard to groundwater quality. In this respect, particular care should be taken not to overload the self-purification capacity of the soil filter and corresponding natural processes therein. Special attention should be paid to hazardous substances, for example heavy metals.

6. In principle, injection of liquid wastes into the ground should be prohibited. Deep-well injection of liquid wastes of industrial origin and other water of objectionable quality into the ground should be authorized only case-by-case as ultima ratio, if the necessary precautions and controls for deep-well disposal can be specified, and if injected wastes cannot harm nearby aquifers. Control methods should include proper siting, design, construction, operation, abandonment and monitoring of deep-well injection. Control measures should be taken to prevent wastes escaping into freshwater aquifers. Continuous hydrogeological surveys should be carried out in the planning stage and during construction. These should serve as a basis for authorization. Permits should specify, inter alia, restrictions on the operation programme, emergency procedures in the event of malfunction, as well as monitoring and abandonment procedures for deep wells.

XII. Wells and boreholes

Drilling and sinking of wells and boreholes should as a rule be carried out by qualified and properly skilled personnel and with appropriate equipment. Prior notice should be given to competent authorities for drilling, sinking, constructing, enlarging, altering, sealing and repairing wells or boreholes and, once work is terminated, a report on the work accomplished should be filed. Provisions might be made for exemptions following precise rules in the case of small and shallow wells. Systematic control should be carried out over the technical status of operation, exploring and monitoring wells, in order to prevent the intrusion into aquifers of polluting substances from the land surface and the mixing of various water layers through drilling of wells.

XIII. Monitoring and control

1. Monitoring programmes for groundwater protection should be set up and applied. These programmes should include monitoring at the source of potential pollution which could pose a serious or chronic threat to an aquifer. There should be regular inspections to ensure compliance with protection requirements imposed. Attention should also be paid to the monitoring of groundwater quality changes brought about by air-borne pollution.

2. Systematic monitoring should be carried out for all aquifers found to be vulnerable to pollution and/or over-use, as well as for those whose particular importance has been recognized for public water supply, mineral water supply and industry.

3. Monitoring and control should be considered a public-service activity. Facilities should be set up for co-ordinating the assessment and availability of monitoring data and information on aquifers. The resulting collections of data should be related to information on groundwater quantity and quality characteristics of aquifers as well as details of their location, use, and exposure to various impacts from land uses such as agriculture, industry and urban development. Information should be readily available to those interested.

4. The data from monitoring should make it possible, inter alia, to revise periodically plans and forecasts of groundwater use, taking into account actual evolution of aquifers, and to determine measures necessary to ensure the sustainable use of groundwater resources in the long term. Legislative provisions and regulations should, as appropriate, allow for the revision of protection requirements imposed depending on the measures thus determined.

5. Monitoring programmes should be periodically reviewed to ensure that they are achieving their stated aims and that the results have been used effectively.

XIV. Impact assessment

1. All projects in any economic sector expected to affect aquifers adversely should be subject to an assessment procedure aiming at evaluating the project's possible impact on the water regime and/or the quality of groundwater resources, with particular attention to the important role groundwater plays in the ecological system. Impact assessment surveys should continue during the construction and operation phases of a project, in order to keep under review any adverse impacts on groundwater resources before, during and after human interventions.

2. Impact assessments should be undertaken at an early stage of project planning and should be systematically applied to the different alternatives considered in a project study. Results of impact assessment procedures should duly be taken into account in decision making. Systematic monitoring of project realization by competent authorities should ensure compliance with conditions of groundwater protection.

XV. Inventories

Inventories of all groundwater aquifers should be made, including data on their quantitative and qualitative characteristics, and their vulnerability to over-exploitation and pollution. The evaluation should include data on the present situation and future prospects with regard to aquifer use.

XVI. Planning and forecasting

1. Special attention should be accorded to the application of planning tools and forecasting methods when managing groundwaters and protecting aquifers against pollution and over-use. Programmes for continuous assessment of both the quality and quantity of groundwater should be implemented, particularly for those aquifers vulnerable to or threatened by pollution or over-exploitation.

2. In the planning procedures, procedures, prospective studies and forecasts - both in terms of water quantity and quality - of future groundwater demands, use, consumption, discharge and environmental stress should not only be an extrapolation of past trends but should also take into account the anticipated effect of applied or foreseen control measures, economic incentives and other managerial instruments for groundwater protection. Objectives of planning, and in particular long-term planning should not only serve the purpose of exploitation and utilization of groundwater resources but - to an increasing extent - should serve their protection. Planning should among other elements seek to include quality-forecasts of groundwater resources for appropriate time horizons, taking into account potential pollutants already in the ground and which would eventually contaminate groundwater long after strict pollution-control measures had become effective.

3. Groundwater models should be built so that multi-variant/multiple forecasts can be made of the groundwater regime, particularly for aquifers at risk.

XVII. Land-use policies

1. Land-use policies should take duly into account the exigencies of natural recharge and protection of groundwater against pollution and over-exploitation. Co-ordination between the various responsible authorities should be promoted. The general application of land-use plans, where appropriate, can be an effective measure in this connection.

2. A co-ordinated approach to groundwater management and land-use control may call for negotiation procedures. Land-use policies should be co-ordinated with other relevant policies of integrated water management such as surface-water and groundwater management policies. Water managers should be involved in land-use planning already at an early stage of development processes. In areas where aquifers are unique, endangered or already impaired, groundwater protection strategies should carry decisive weight in land-use planning and control.

3. Aquifers should be designated critical when already heavily endangered or impaired by pollution or over-use. To avoid further degradation and to make possible their restoration, appropriate measures should be taken which could include changes in land-use patterns and related rights.

4. Sites of waste disposal and places where activities may result in contamination of land should be appropriately restored.

5. Increased attention should be paid to enhancing natural recharge of aquifers.

XVIII. Protection zones

1. Where compatible with national legislation, groundwater protection zones should be established over and above the general protection of groundwaters through relevant legal provisions, as a preventive measure protecting aquifers around present and future abstraction sites and in recharge areas where aquifers are vulnerable. Compliance with the prescribed restrictions should be strictly controlled.

2. Protection zones could be divided into different classes with differentiated restrictions on land-use and water-use graduated according to environmental considerations and the relative importance of the underlying aquifer. In this respect, particular consideration should be given to the establishment of well-head protection areas. Necessary measures should be taken to minimize the risks of accidental or diffuse pollution in protection zones.

3. Restrictions and/or prohibitions on land-use activities should include mining and industrial processes, manufacturing, intensive farming, including the application of fertilizers and pesticides on agricultural land, transportation, waste disposal and treatment as well as storage of dangerous substances.

XIX. Pollution from agriculture

1. Advice, recommendations, codes of good agricultural practice, legislation, regulations or economic measures should be applied to keep under control the widespread use of fertilizers and any chemicals in agriculture having potential effects on groundwater. Policies applied through such measures should take into account the general diffuse nature of such pollution as well as the often considerable time-lag in the transfer of polluting substances to aquifers. These policies should, therefore, promote the application of preventive measures. To that end, all appropriate measures mentioned above should also be implemented to encourage and to promote the rational application of industrial fertilizers, manures, crop-protection products and pesticides. Restrictive measures with penalties for non-compliance should be adopted in particular for the protection of vulnerable aquifers and for protection zones.

2. In order to promote the rational use of agricultural inputs, appropriate measures or a combination of them should be taken, wherever deemed necessary, e.g. the establishment of contractual arrangements between professional agricultural organizations and water authorities; restrictive measures of a legal, regulatory or economic character taking into account socio-economic constraints and environmental conditions prevailing in each country or region.

3. Appropriate measures for controlled use of manure could be, for instance: limiting the operation of intensive large-scale livestock farming to sites where sufficient land is available for correct application and use of manure and slurry; making available large tracts of arable land through co-operative agreement between crop-farmers and livestock farmers, if necessary transporting manure over longer distances to croplands. If in a particular region manure is produced in excess of that needed for plant growth, transport to regions which are deficient should be considered as a solution (manure banks). Conditioning of wastes for stabilization and sale as well as treatment of manure with recuperation of by-products (fertilizers) could also be considered. Manure-application control measures may also include: regulations including dosage and timing; volume increase of manure storage tanks; designing and using better equipment for manure spraying.

4. Strict licensing procedures should be introduced for the manufacture and distribution of crop-protection products and pesticides. Their use and application, however, is difficult to regulate. Recommendations should nevertheless be made with regard to their dosage, conditions of use, periodicity of application, precautions to be taken, etc. This advice may be included in information campaigns for farmers.

XX. Pollution from urban and industrial sources

1. Measures should be taken to control pollution associated with surface run-off from paved impermeable areas (e.g. streets) and with leakage from industry, transport, sewerage systems and treatment plants. Polluted surface run-off should be properly treated especially where vulnerable aquifers could be affected.

2. Sites of unauthorized waste disposal and other contaminated areas should be identified and adequately restored.

3. Leakage and spillage of contaminants from industries, transport, sewerage systems and waste-water treatment plants should be prevented through appropriate design as well as efficient maintenance and supervision including leakage tests Detection of leakage from pipelines, storage tanks and other industrial facilities should be improved by appropriate inspection procedures.

XXI. Control of mining activities

1. Dewatering of mines should be kept under control so as to minimize the adverse effects on the water regime, prevent depletion or pollution of nearby aquifers and infiltration of low-quality water. Special attention should be paid to the disposal of mining wastes so that they do not put at risk the quality of groundwater. When mines are closed down they should be properly sealed off parallel to the abandoned wells and waste dumps. Vegetation on them should be re-established.

2. In planning and operating in situ conversion of coal into natural gas or fluids, strict safety measures should be designed and applied to avoid groundwater pollution induced by processing gases or liquids. This should be done in order to prevent leaching of minerals from reaction zones after mining, or to bar solvents, sulphur and phenol-rich fluids from reaching the groundwater. Sites of any kind of waste, in particular tailings ponds for wastes from oil-sand and oil-shale extraction, as well as coal and metal mining should be sealed off against their contaminating groundwater.

XXII. Heat pumps

Water authorities should specify criteria for the location, operation, maintenance and closing down of heat pumps and other installations likely to use significant quantities of substances with potential to pollute groundwater, e.g. dielectrics, and should draw up guidelines on related groundwater protection measures. Specific requirements should be set for a cooling agent and other chemicals used. Further restriction or even prohibition may be necessary in groundwater protection zones.

XXIII. Research

Research programmes should be intensified in order to improve knowledge of:

(a) hydrodynamics in aquifers;

(b) transportation, fixation and leaching processes of pollutants as well as cumulative phenomena of chemical compounds in the subsoil, in both saturated and unsaturated zones and even in deep-lying aquifers;

(c) appropriate technical measures which prevent, or at least reduce substantially, the transfer of undesirable substances from human activities into groundwaters and/or related surface waters;

(d) elaboration of guidelines and technologies with regard to the prevention of groundwater pollution from agriculture;

(e) economical and effective clean-up methods for polluted soils arid aquifers; and

(f) development and calibration of representative groundwater models. International co-operation aiming at the exchange of experience and views and/or joint or co-ordinated research programmes in these fields should be encouraged.

XXIV. Education and information

1. Education and information should promote greater awareness of the inherent groundwater problems at all levels, contributing to efficient implementation of the measures taken.

2. Every effort should be made to raise the level of knowledge of the public, in general, and of water users, in particular, as regards the nature, behaviour and vulnerability of groundwater resources. To this end, public information, education and training programmes should be encouraged.

3. Active participation of all parties concerned with the management and use of groundwater should be promoted, with a view, inter alia, to achieving public acceptance of legal and administrative measures which could restrict the freedom of individual water users, in order to avert possible hazards in the case of misuse. Such knowledge should forestall resistance or outright opposition to the implementation of sound policies for groundwater management.

XXV. International co-operation

1. Concerted endeavours to strengthen international co-operation for harmonious development, equitable use and joint conservation of groundwater resources located beneath national boundaries should be intensified. To this end, existing or new bilateral or multilateral agreements or other legally binding arrangements should be supplemented, if necessary, or concluded in order to place on a firmer basis co-operative efforts among countries for the protection of those groundwater resources which can be affected by neighbouring countries through exploitation or pollution. In order to implement such co-operation, joint commissions or other intergovernmental bodies should be established. The work of other international organizations, particularly on data harmonization, should be taken into account.

2. Co-operative arrangements could include: data collection, standardization and exchange; establishment of joint inventories; research and training; planning and demand-management; joint control and monitoring of activities with regard to quantitative and qualitative aspects of groundwater protection; elaboration of compatible monitoring methods, standards and permits; establishment of adjacent protection zones; establishment of commonly agreed land-use plans and practices; monitoring of surface-and groundwater resources' behaviour and interdependence; and the obligation to give notification concerning any activity which might modify the volume and/or the quality of groundwater.

38. International Conference on Water and the Environment - The Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development [1992][96]


Scarcity and misuse of fresh water pose a serious and growing threat to sustainable development and protection of the environment. Human health and welfare, food security, industrial development and the ecosystems on which they depend, are all at risk, unless water and land resources are managed more effectively in the present decade and beyond than they have been in the past.


In commending this Dublin Statement to the world leaders assembled at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, the Conference participants urge all governments to study carefully the specific activities and means of implementation recommended in the Conference Report, and to translate those recommendations into urgent action programmes for water and sustainable development.

Guiding principles

Concerted action is needed to reverse the present trends of overconsumption, pollution, and rising threats from drought and floods. The Conference Report sets out recommendations for action at local, national and international levels, based on four guiding principles.

Principle No. 1

Fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment

Since water sustains life, effective management of water resources demands a holistic approach, linking social and economic development with protection of natural ecosystems. Effective management links land and water uses across the whole of a catchment area or groundwater aquifer.

Principle No. 2

Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels

The participatory approach involves raising awareness of the importance of water among policy-makers and the general public. It means that decisions are taken at the lowest appropriate level, with full public consultation and involvement of users in the planning and implementation of water projects.

Principle No. 3

Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water

This pivotal role of women as providers and users of water and guardians of the living environment has seldom been reflected in institutional arrangements for the development and management of water resources. Acceptance and implementation of this principle requires positive policies to address women's specific needs and to equip and empower women to participate at all levels in water resources programmes, including decision-making and implementation, in ways defined by them.

Principle No. 4

Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good

Within this principle, it is vital to recognize first the basic right of all human beings to have access to clean water and sanitation at an affordable price. Past failure to recognize the economic value of water has led to wasteful and environmentally damaging uses of the resource. Managing water as an economic good is an important way of achieving efficient and equitable use, and of encouraging conservation and protection of water resources.


39. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - Agenda 21 - Chapter 18, Protection of the Quality and Supply of Freshwater Resources: Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management and Use of Water Resources [1992][97]

18.1. Freshwater resources are an essential component of the Earth's hydrosphere and an indispensable part of all terrestrial ecosystems. The freshwater environment is characterized by the hydrological cycle, including floods and droughts, which in some regions have become more extreme and dramatic in their consequences. Global climate change and atmospheric pollution could also have an impact on freshwater resources and their availability and, through sea-level rise, threaten low-lying coastal areas and small island ecosystems.

18.2. Water is needed in all aspects of life. The general objective is to make certain that adequate supplies of water of good quality are maintained for the entire population of this planet, while preserving the hydrological, biological and chemical functions of ecosystems, adapting human activities within the capacity limits of nature and combating vectors of water-related diseases. Innovative technologies, including the improvement of indigenous technologies, are needed to fully utilize limited water resources and to safeguard those resources against pollution.

18.3. The widespread scarcity, gradual destruction and aggravated pollution of freshwater resources in many world regions, along with the progressive encroachment of incompatible activities, demand integrated water resources planning and management. Such integration must cover all types of interrelated freshwater bodies, including both surface water and groundwater, and duly consider water quantity and quality aspects. The multisectoral nature of water resources development in the context of socio-economic development must be recognized, as well as the multi-interest utilization of water resources for water supply and sanitation, agriculture, industry, urban development, hydropower generation, inland fisheries, transportation, recreation, low and flat lands management and other activities. Rational water utilization schemes for the development of surface and underground water-supply sources and other potential sources have to be supported by concurrent water conservation and wastage minimization measures. Priority, however, must be accorded to flood prevention and control measures, as well as sedimentation control, where required.

18.4. Transboundary water resources and their use are of great importance to riparian States. In this connection, cooperation among those States may be desirable in conformity with existing agreements and/or other relevant arrangements, taking into account the interests of all riparian States concerned.

18.5. The following programme areas are proposed for the freshwater sector:

(a) Integrated water resources development and management;
(b) Water resources assessment;
(c) Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems;
(d) Drinking-water supply and sanitation;
(e) Water and sustainable urban development;
(f) Water for sustainable food production and rural development;
(g) Impacts of climate change on water resources.

Programme areas

A. Integrated water resources development and management

Basis for action

18.6. The extent to which water resources development contributes to economic productivity and social well-being is not usually appreciated, although all social and economic activities rely heavily on the supply and quality of freshwater. As populations and economic activities grow, many countries are rapidly reaching conditions of water scarcity or facing limits to economic development. Water demands are increasing rapidly, with 70-80 per cent required for irrigation, less than 20 per cent for industry and a mere 6 per cent for domestic consumption. The holistic management of freshwater as a finite and vulnerable resource, and the integration of sectoral water plans and programmes within the framework of national economic and social policy, are of paramount importance for action in the 1990s and beyond. The fragmentation of responsibilities for water resources development among sectoral agencies is proving, however, to be an even greater impediment to promoting integrated water management than had been anticipated. Effective implementation and coordination mechanisms are required.


18.7. The overall objective is to satisfy the freshwater needs of all countries for their sustainable development.

18.8. Integrated water resources management is based on the perception of water as an integral part of the ecosystem, a natural resource and a social and economic good, whose quantity and quality determine the nature of its utilization. To this end, water resources have to be protected, taking into account the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and the perenniality of the resource, in order to satisfy and reconcile needs for water in human activities. In developing and using water resources, priority has to be given to the satisfaction of basic needs and the safeguarding of ecosystems. Beyond these requirements, however, water users should be charged appropriately.

18.9. Integrated water resources management, including the integration of land- and water-related aspects, should be carried out at the level of the catchment basin or sub-basin. Four principal objectives should be pursued, as follows:

(a) To promote a dynamic, interactive, iterative and multisectoral approach to water resources management, including the identification and protection of potential sources of freshwater supply, that integrates technological, socio-economic, environmental and human health considerations;

(b) To plan for the sustainable and rational utilization, protection, conservation and management of water resources based on community needs and priorities within the framework of national economic development policy;

(c) To design, implement and evaluate projects and programmes that are both economically efficient and socially appropriate within clearly defined strategies, based on an approach of full public participation, including that of women, youth, indigenous people and local communities in water management policy-making and decision-making;

(d) To identify and strengthen or develop, as required, in particular in developing countries, the appropriate institutional, legal and financial mechanisms to ensure that water policy and its implementation are a catalyst for sustainable social progress and economic growth.

18.10. In the case of transboundary water resources, there is a need for riparian States to formulate water resources strategies, prepare water resources action programmes and consider, where appropriate, the harmonization of those strategies and action programmes.

18.11. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could set the following targets:

A) By the year 2000:

(i) To have designed and initiated costed and targeted national action programmes, and to have put in place appropriate institutional structures and legal instruments;

(ii) To have established efficient water-use programmes to attain sustainable resource utilization patterns;

B) By the year 2025:

(i) To have achieved subsectoral targets of all freshwater programme areas.

It is understood that the fulfilment of the targets quantified in (i) and (ii) above will depend upon new and additional financial resources that will be made available to developing countries in accordance with the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolution 44/228.


18.12. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities to improve integrated water resources management:

(a) Formulation of costed and targeted national action plans and investment programmes;

(b) Integration of measures for the protection and conservation of potential sources of freshwater supply, including the inventorying of water resources, with land-use planning, forest resource utilization, protection of mountain slopes and riverbanks and other relevant development and conservation activities;

(c) Development of interactive databases, forecasting models, economic planning models and methods for water management and planning, including environmental impact assessment methods;

(d) Optimization of water resources allocation under physical and socio-economic constraints;

(e) Implementation of allocation decisions through demand management, pricing mechanisms and regulatory measures;

(f) Flood and drought management, including risk analysis and environmental and social impact assessment;

(g) Promotion of schemes for rational water use through public awareness-raising, educational programmes and levying of water tariffs and other economic instruments;

(h) Mobilization of water resources, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas;

(i) Promotion of international scientific research cooperation on freshwater resources;

(j) Development of new and alternative sources of water-supply such as sea-water desalination, artificial groundwater recharge, use of marginal-quality water, waste-water reuse and water recycling;

(k) Integration of water (including surface and underground water resources) quantity and quality management;

(l) Promotion of water conservation through improved water-use efficiency and wastage minimization schemes for all users, including the development of water-saving devices;

(m) Support to water-users groups to optimize local water resources management;

(n) Development of public participatory techniques and their implementation in decision-making, particularly the enhancement of the role of women in water resources planning and management;

(o) Development and strengthening, as appropriate, of cooperation, including mechanisms where appropriate, at all levels concerned, namely:

(i) At the lowest appropriate level, delegation of water resources management, generally, to such a level, in accordance with national legislation, including decentralization of government services to local authorities, private enterprises and communities;

(ii) At the national level, integrated water resources planning and management in the framework of the national planning process and, where appropriate, establishment of independent regulation and monitoring of freshwater, based on national legislation and economic measures;

(iii) At the regional level, consideration, where appropriate, of the harmonization of national strategies and action programmes;

(iv) At the global level, improved delineation of responsibilities, division of labour and coordination of international organizations and programmes, including facilitating discussions and sharing of experiences in areas related to water resources management;

(p) Dissemination of information, including operational guidelines, and promotion of education for water users, including the consideration by the United Nations of a World Water Day.


B. Water resources assessment

Basis for action

18.23. Water resources assessment, including the identification of potential sources of freshwater supply, comprises the continuing determination of sources, extent, dependability and quality of water resources and of the human activities that affect those resources. Such assessment constitutes the practical basis for their sustainable management and a prerequisite for evaluation of the possibilities for their development. There is, however, growing concern that at a time when more precise and reliable information is needed about water resources, hydrologic services and related bodies are less able than before to provide this information, especially information on groundwater and water quality. Major impediments are the lack of financial resources for water resources assessment, the fragmented nature of hydrologic services and the insufficient numbers of qualified staff. At the same time, the advancing technology for data capture and management is increasingly difficult to access for developing countries. Establishment of national databases is, however, vital to water resources assessment and to mitigation of the effects of floods, droughts, desertification and pollution.


18.24. Based upon the Mar del Plata Action Plan, this programme area has been extended into the 1990s and beyond with the overall objective of ensuring the assessment and forecasting of the quantity and quality of water resources, in order to estimate the total quantity of water resources available and their future supply potential, to determine their current quality status, to predict possible conflicts between supply and demand and to provide a scientific database for rational water resources utilization.

18.25. Five specific objectives have been set accordingly, as follows:

(a) To make available to all countries water resources assessment technology that is appropriate to their needs, irrespective of their level of development, including methods for the impact assessment of climate change on freshwaters;

(b) To have all countries, according to their financial means, allocate to water resources assessment financial resources in line with the economic and social needs for water resources data;

(c) To ensure that the assessment information is fully utilized in the development of water management policies;

(d) To have all countries establish the institutional arrangements needed to ensure the efficient collection, processing, storage, retrieval and dissemination to users of information about the quality and quantity of available water resources at the level of catchments and groundwater aquifers in an integrated manner;

(d)[sic]To have sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified and capable staff recruited and retained by water resources assessment agencies and provided with the training and retraining they will need to carry out their responsibilities successfully.

18.26. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including cooperation with the United Nations and other relevant organizations, as appropriate, could set the following targets:

(a) By the year 2000, to have studied in detail the feasibility of installing water resources assessment services;

(b) As a long-term target, to have fully operational services available based upon high-density hydrometric networks.


18.27. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could undertake the following activities:

A) Institutional framework:

(i) Establish appropriate policy frameworks and national priorities;

(ii) Establish and strengthen the institutional capabilities of countries, including legislative and regulatory arrangements, that are required to ensure the adequate assessment of their water resources and the provision of flood and drought forecasting services;

(iii) Establish and maintain effective cooperation at the national level between the various agencies responsible for the collection, storage and analysis of hydrologic data;

(iv) Cooperate in the assessment of transboundary water resources, subject to the prior agreement of each riparian State concerned;

B) Data systems:

(i) Review existing data-collection networks and assess their adequacy, including those that provide real-time data for flood and drought forecasting;

(ii) Improve networks to meet accepted guidelines for the provision of data on water quantity and quality for surface and groundwater, as well as relevant land-use data;

(iii) Apply standards and other means to ensure data compatibility;

(iv) Upgrade facilities and procedures used to store, process and analyse hydrologic data and make such data and the forecasts derived from them available to potential users;

(v) Establish databases on the availability of all types of hydrologic data at the national level;

(vi) Implement "data rescue" operations, for example, establishment of national archives of water resources;

(vii) Implement appropriate well-tried techniques for the processing of hydrologic data;

(viii) Derive area-related estimates from point hydrologic data;

(ix) Assimilate remotely sensed data and the use, where appropriate, of geographical information systems;

C) Data dissemination:

(i) Identify the need for water resources data for various planning purposes;

(ii) Analyse and present data and information on water resources in the forms required for planning and management of countries' socio-economic development and for use in environmental protection strategies and in the design and operation of specific water-related projects;

(iii) Provide forecasts and warnings of flood and drought to the general public and civil defence;

D) Research and development:

(i) Establish or strengthen research and development programmes at the national, subregional, regional and international levels in support of water resources assessment activities;

(ii) Monitor research and development activities to ensure that they make full use of local expertise and other local resources and that they are appropriate for the needs of the country or countries concerned.


C. Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems

Basis for action

18.35. Freshwater is a unitary resource. Long-term development of global freshwater requires holistic management of resources and a recognition of the interconnectedness of the elements related to freshwater and freshwater quality. There are few regions of the world that are still exempt from problems of loss of potential sources of freshwater supply, degraded water quality and pollution of surface and groundwater sources. Major problems affecting the water quality of rivers and lakes arise, in variable order of importance according to different situations, from inadequately treated domestic sewage, inadequate controls on the discharges of industrial waste waters, loss and destruction of catchment areas, ill-considered siting of industrial plants, deforestation, uncontrolled shifting cultivation and poor agricultural practices. This gives rise to the leaching of nutrients and pesticides. Aquatic ecosystems are disturbed and living freshwater resources are threatened. Under certain circumstances, aquatic ecosystems are also affected by agricultural water resource development projects such as dams, river diversions, water installations and irrigation schemes. Erosion, sedimentation, deforestation and desertification have led to increased land degradation, and the creation of reservoirs has, in some cases, resulted in adverse effects on ecosystems. Many of these problems have arisen from a development model that is environmentally destructive and from a lack of public awareness and education about surface and groundwater resource protection. Ecological and human health effects are the measurable consequences, although the means to monitor them are inadequate or non-existent in many countries. There is a widespread lack of perception of the linkages between the development, management, use and treatment of water resources and aquatic ecosystems. A preventive approach, where appropriate, is crucial to the avoiding of costly subsequent measures to rehabilitate, treat and develop new water supplies.


18.36. The complex interconnectedness of freshwater systems demands that freshwater management be holistic (taking a catchment management approach) and based on a balanced consideration of the needs of people and the environment. The Mar del Plata Action Plan has already recognized the intrinsic linkage between water resource development projects and their significant physical, chemical, biological, health and socio-economic repercussions. The overall environmental health objective was set as follows: "to evaluate the consequences which the various users of water have on the environment, to support measures aimed at controlling water-related diseases, and to protect ecosystems"[98].

18.37. The extent and severity of contamination of unsaturated zones and aquifers have long been underestimated owing to the relative inaccessibility of aquifers and the lack of reliable information on aquifer systems. The protection of groundwater is therefore an essential element of water resource management.

18.38. Three objectives will have to be pursued concurrently to integrate water-quality elements into water resource management:

(a) Maintenance of ecosystem integrity, according to a management principle of preserving aquatic ecosystems, including living resources, and of effectively protecting them from any form of degradation on a drainage basin basis;

(b) Public health protection, a task requiring not only the provision of safe drinking-water but also the control of disease vectors in the aquatic environment;

(c) Human resources development, a key to capacity-building and a prerequisite for implementing water-quality management.

18.39. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could set the following targets:

(a) To identify the surface and groundwater resources that could be developed for use on a sustainable basis and other major developable water-dependent resources and, simultaneously, to initiate programmes for the protection, conservation and rational use of these resources on a sustainable basis;

(b) To identify all potential sources of water-supply and prepared outlines for their protection, conservation and rational use;

(c) To initiate effective water pollution prevention and control programmes, based on an appropriate mixture of pollution reduction-at-source strategies, environmental impact assessments and enforceable standards for major point-source discharges and high-risk non-point sources, commensurate with their socio-economic development;

(d) To participate, as far as appropriate, in international water-quality monitoring and management programmes such as the Global Water Quality Monitoring Programme (GEMS/WATER), the UNEP Environmentally Sound Management of Inland Waters (EMINWA), the FAO regional inland fishery bodies, and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention);

(e) To reduce the prevalence of water-associated diseases, starting with the eradication of dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) and onchocerciasis (river blindness) by the year 2000;

(f) To establish, according to capacities and needs, biological, health, physical and chemical quality criteria for all water bodies (surface and groundwater), with a view to an ongoing improvement of water quality;

(g) To adopt an integrated approach to environmentally sustainable management of water resources, including the protection of aquatic ecosystems and freshwater living resources;

(h) To put in place strategies for the environmentally sound management of freshwaters and related coastal ecosystems, including consideration of fisheries, aquaculture, animal grazing, agricultural activities and biodiversity.


18.40. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities:

A) Water resources protection and conservation:

(i) Establishment and strengthening of technical and institutional capacities to identify and protect potential sources of water-supply within all sectors of society;

(ii) Identification of potential sources of water-supply and preparation of national profiles;

(iii) Preparation of national plans for water resources protection and conservation;

(iv) Rehabilitation of important, but degraded, catchment areas, particularly on small islands;

(v) Strengthening of administrative and legislative measures to prevent encroachment on existing and potentially usable catchment areas;

B) Water pollution prevention and control:

(i) Application of the "polluter pays" principle, where appropriate, to all kinds of sources, including on-site and off-site sanitation;

(ii) Promotion of the construction of treatment facilities for domestic sewage and industrial effluents and the development of appropriate technologies, taking into account sound traditional and indigenous practices;

(iii) Establishment of standards for the discharge of effluents and for the receiving waters;

(iv) Introduction of the precautionary approach in water-quality management, where appropriate, with a focus on pollution minimization and prevention through use of new technologies, product and process change, pollution reduction at source and effluent reuse, recycling and recovery, treatment and environmentally safe disposal;

(v) Mandatory environmental impact assessment of all major water resource development projects potentially impairing water quality and aquatic ecosystems, combined with the delineation of appropriate remedial measures and a strengthened control of new industrial installations, solid waste landfills and infrastructure development projects;

(vi) Use of risk assessment and risk management in reaching decisions in this area and ensuring compliance with those decisions;

(vii) Identification and application of best environmental practices at reasonable cost to avoid diffuse pollution, namely, through a limited, rational and planned use of nitrogenous fertilizers and other agrochemicals (pesticides, herbicides) in agricultural practices;

(viii) Encouragement and promotion of the use of adequately treated and purified waste waters in agriculture, aquaculture, industry and other sectors;

C) Development and application of clean technology:

(i) Control of industrial waste discharges, including low-waste production technologies and water recirculation, in an integrated manner and through application of precautionary measures derived from a broad-based life-cycle analysis;

(ii) Treatment of municipal waste water for safe reuse in agriculture and aquaculture;

(iii) Development of biotechnology, inter alia, for waste treatment, production of biofertilizers and other activities;

(iv) Development of appropriate methods for water pollution control, taking into account sound traditional and indigenous practices;

D) Groundwater protection:

(i) Development of agricultural practices that do not degrade groundwaters;

(ii) Application of the necessary measures to mitigate saline intrusion into aquifers of small islands and coastal plains as a consequence of sealevel rise or overexploitation of coastal aquifers;

(iii) Prevention of aquifer pollution through the regulation of toxic substances that permeate the ground and the establishment of protection zones in groundwater recharge and abstraction areas;

(iv) Design and management of landfills based upon sound hydrogeologic information and impact assessment, using the best practicable and best available technology;

(v) Promotion of measures to improve the safety and integrity of wells and well-head areas to reduce intrusion of biological pathogens and hazardous chemicals into aquifers at well sites;

(vi) Water-quality monitoring, as needed, of surface and groundwaters potentially affected by sites storing toxic and hazardous materials;

E) Protection of aquatic ecosystems:

(i) Rehabilitation of polluted and degraded water bodies to restore aquatic habitats and ecosystems;

(ii) Rehabilitation programmes for agricultural lands and for other users, taking into account equivalent action for the protection and use of groundwater resources important for agricultural productivity and for the biodiversity of the tropics;

(iii) Conservation and protection of wetlands (owing to their ecological and habitat importance for many species), taking into account social and economic factors;

(iv) Control of noxious aquatic species that may destroy some other water species;


G) Monitoring and surveillance of water resources and waters receiving wastes:

(i) Establishment of networks for the monitoring and continuous surveillance of waters receiving wastes and of point and diffuse sources of pollution;

(ii) Promotion and extension of the application of environmental impact assessments of geographical information systems;

(iii) Surveillance of pollution sources to improve compliance with standards and regulations and to regulate the issue of discharge permits;

(iv) Monitoring of the utilization of chemicals in agriculture that may have an adverse environmental effect;

(v) Rational land use to prevent land degradation, erosion and siltation of lakes and other water bodies;

H) Development of national and international legal instruments that may be required to protect the quality of water resources, as appropriate, particularly for:

(i) Monitoring and control of pollution and its effects in national and transboundary waters;

(ii) Control of long-range atmospheric transport of pollutants;

(iii) Control of accidental and/or deliberate spills in national and/or transboundary water bodies;

(iv) Environmental impact assessment.


[Omitted: D. Drinking-water supply and sanitation]

E. Water and sustainable urban development



18.59. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities:

A) Protection of water resources from depletion, pollution and degradation:


(vii) Encouragement of the best management practices for the use of agrochemicals with a view to minimizing their impact on water resources;


F. Water for sustainable food production and rural development



18.76. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities:


C) Waterlogging, salinity control and drainage:


(iii) Encourage conjunctive use of surface and groundwaters, including monitoring and water-balance studies;

(iv) Practise drainage in irrigated areas of arid and semi-arid regions;


G. Impacts of climate change on water resources

Basis for action

18.82. There is uncertainty with respect to the prediction of climate change at the global level. Although the uncertainties increase greatly at the regional, national and local levels, it is at the national level that the most important decisions would need to be made. Higher temperatures and decreased precipitation would lead to decreased water-supplies and increased water demands; they might cause deterioration in the quality of freshwater bodies, putting strains on the already fragile balance between supply and demand in many countries. Even where precipitation might increase, there is no guarantee that it would occur at the time of year when it could be used; in addition, there might be a likelihood of increased flooding. Any rise in sealevel will often cause the intrusion of salt water into estuaries, small islands and coastal aquifers and the flooding of low-lying coastal areas; this puts low-lying countries at great risk.

18.83. The Ministerial Declaration of the Second World Climate Conference states that "the potential impact of such climate change could pose an environmental threat of an up to now unknown magnitude... and could even threaten survival in some small island States and in low-lying coastal, arid and semi-arid areas"[99]. The Conference recognized that among the most important impacts of climate change were its effects on the hydrologic cycle and on water management systems and, through these, on socio-economic systems. Increase in incidence of extremes, such as floods and droughts, would cause increased frequency and severity of disasters. The Conference therefore called for a strengthening of the necessary research and monitoring programmes and the exchange of relevant data and information, these actions to be undertaken at the national, regional and international levels.


18.84. The very nature of this topic calls first and foremost for more information about and greater understanding of the threat being faced. This topic may be translated into the following objectives, consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

(a) To understand and quantify the threat of the impact of climate change on freshwater resources;

(b) To facilitate the implementation of effective national countermeasures, as and when the threatening impact is seen as sufficiently confirmed to justify such action;

(c) To study the potential impacts of climate change on areas prone to droughts and floods.


18.85. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities:

(a) Monitor the hydrologic regime, including soil moisture, groundwater balance, penetration and transpiration of water-quality, and related climate factors, especially in the regions and countries most likely to suffer from the adverse effects of climate change and where the localities vulnerable to these effects should therefore be defined;

(b) Develop and apply techniques and methodologies for assessing the potential adverse effects of climate change, through changes in temperature, precipitation and sealevel rise, on freshwater resources and the flood risk;

(c) Initiate case-studies to establish whether there are linkages between climate changes and the current occurrences of droughts and floods in certain regions;

(d) Assess the resulting social, economic and environmental impacts;

(e) Develop and initiate response strategies to counter the adverse effects that are identified, including changing groundwater levels and to mitigate saline intrusion into aquifers;

(f) Develop agricultural activities based on brackish-water use;

(g) Contribute to the research activities under way within the framework of current international programmes.


40. United Nations International Law Commission - Resolution on Confined Transboundary Groundwater [1994][100]

The International Law Commission,

Having completed its consideration of the topic "The law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses",

Having considered in that context groundwater which is related to an international watercourse,

Recognizing that confined groundwater, that is groundwater not related to an international watercourse, is also a natural resource of vital importance for sustaining life, health and the integrity of ecosystems,

Having also the need for continuing efforts to elaborate rules pertaining to confined transboundary groundwater,

Considering its view that the principles contained in its draft articles on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses may be applicable to transboundary confined groundwater,

1. Commends States to be guided by the principles contained in the draft articles on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses, where appropriate, in regulating transboundary groundwater;

2. Recommends States to consider entering into agreements with the other State or States in which the confined transboundary groundwater is located;

3. Recommends also that, in the event of any dispute involving transboundary confined groundwater, the States concerned should consider resolving such dispute in accordance with the provisions contained in article 33 of the draft articles, or in such other manner as may be agreed upon.

41. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe - Guidelines on Monitoring and Assessment of Transboundary Groundwaters [2000][101]

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Helsinki, 1992) include important provisions on the monitoring and assessment of transboundary waters, the assessment of the effectiveness of measures taken to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impact, and the exchange of information on water and effluent monitoring. Other relevant aspects deal with the harmonisation of rules for setting up and operating monitoring programmes, which includes measurement systems and devices, analytical techniques, data processing and evaluation techniques. Further needs for monitoring arise, because the Convention aims to protect ecosystems, which may be closely connected with groundwaters and the protection of sources of drinking-water supply.

Monitoring and assessment are also part of the 1999 Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. This Protocol contains provisions regarding the establishment of joint or coordinated systems for surveillance and early-warning systems to identify outbreaks or incidents of water-related diseases or significant threats of such outbreaks or incidents (including those resulting from water pollution or extreme weather). It also foresees the development of integrated information systems and databases, the exchange of information and the sharing of technical and legal knowledge and experience.

1.2 About these Guidelines

These Guidelines refer to transboundary groundwaters. They form part of a series of Guidelines for the monitoring and assessment of rivers, groundwaters, lakes and estuaries.

The character of these Guidelines is strategic rather than technical[102]. They are intended to assist ECE governments and joint bodies in developing harmonised rules for the setting up and operation of systems for transboundary groundwater monitoring and assessment. The target group comprises decision makers and planners in ministries, organisations and institutions responsible for environmental, water or hydrogeological issues and all those who are also responsible for managing transboundary groundwaters. The Guidelines also aim to provide advice to those who are responsible for or involved in the development of sustainable water management schemes.

The Guidelines are intended to be concise and realistic; they are not intended to be prescriptive. They provide an approach for the identification of problems and guidance to meet information needs. The Guidelines deal mostly with monitoring and assessment needs that arise from the Convention. As far as possible, monitoring and assessment needs that arise from the Protocol on Water and Health are also considered. However, a full consideration of the latter will be possible only when more experience has been gathered on issues linked to water and human health.

Definitions used in these Guidelines:

- Monitoring

Monitoring is the process of repetitive observing, for defined purposes of one or more elements of the environment according to pre-arranged schedules in space and time and using comparable methodologies for environmental sensing and data collection. It provides information concerning the present state and past trends in environmental behaviour.

- Assessment

The evaluation of the hydrological, chemical and/or micro-biological state of groundwaters in relation to the background conditions, human effects, and the actual or intended uses, which may adversely affect human health or the environment.

- Survey

A finite duration, intensive programme to measure, evaluate and report the state of the groundwater system for a specific purpose.

The general approach of the monitoring cycle (figure 1.1), as presented in the Guidelines on monitoring and assessment of transboundary rivers[103], will be followed in these Guidelines as well.

The monitoring cycle offers a readers' guide for these Guidelines and an [sic] valuable approach when drawing up programmes for the monitoring and assessment of transboundary groundwaters.

An exchange of information (and joint assessment/modelling) between riparian parties is meaningful only if the data are comparable. This can be achieved when all components of groundwater monitoring activities on both sides of the border use similar principles or adopt an approach such as the monitoring cycle presented below.

[Omitted: Figure 1.1 - Monitoring cycle]


[Omitted: 2. Identification of groundwater management issues, 3. Information needs 4. Strategies for monitoring and assessment, 5. Monitoring programmes, 6. Data management, 7. Quality management]

8. Joint or coordinated action and institutional arrangements

The successful drawing-up and implementation of policies, strategies and methodologies on groundwater management crucially depends on institutional aspects. These include the organisation, structures, arrangements for cooperation and the responsibilities of institutions and organisations involved. In transboundary groundwater management, international cooperation is governed by the provisions of the Convention, which stipulates that the socio-economic conditions in the riparian countries should be taken into account when deciding on the specific institutional arrangements.

8.1 Concerted action plans and programmes

Riparian parties should agree on quantified management targets. These targets should become part of a concerted action plan or programme. This plan or programme should also cover other measures aimed at achieving an ecologically sound and rational groundwater management, conserving groundwater resources and protecting the environment. This action plan or programme should include provisions for mutual assistance, where necessary. It should be subject to approval at ministerial or senior official level.

The action plan or programme can either be derived from existing national plans or programmes or set the preconditions for the establishment of such national plans or programmes.

The concerted action plan should at least include such items as:

(a) Land and groundwater uses, taking into account that restrictions, and in some cases even bans, on land use should be imposed for mining and processing industries, intensive agricultural practices, including fertiliser and pesticide use, solid wastes, and hazardous chemicals.

(b) Zoning criteria, taking into account that zoning criteria depend on environmental quality and the importance of underlying aquifers.

(c) Protection zones, taking into account that these should help to prevent pollution of groundwaters in current and future groundwater abstraction areas for supplying drinking water. Necessary measures should be taken to minimise the accidental pollution from non-point sources in protection zones.

(d) Economic activities, whereby particular attention should be paid to the transboundary impact of economic activities on groundwater quality and quantity. At present there are few examples of effective coordination between transboundary land development and groundwater protection planning. An exchange of necessary information and bilateral and multilateral cooperation are needed to this end. The establishment of effective and harmonised monitoring programmes should be an effective tool to coordinate these activities.

(e) Groundwater pollution, taking into account that both pollutant discharges and concentrations in transboundary aquifers shall be regularly monitored.

(f) Groundwater abstractions, taking into account that groundwater abstractions for economic needs should be agreed upon to ensure the sustainability of groundwater use.

(g) Wetlands, taking into account that groundwater monitoring should be comprehensive and should address the qualitative as well as the quantitative characteristics of transboundary aquifers, providing reliable tools for the integrated management of groundwaters. Data collection and monitoring programmes should be tailored to the required information level, which is determined by the assessment goal.

8.2 Joint bodies and their activities

(a) General recommendations

Governments should set up joint bodies, where these do not yet exist, and include monitoring and assessment of transboundary groundwaters in the activities of these joint bodies. It is of less importance whether riparian countries set up separate joint bodies responsible for either transboundary surface waters or transboundary groundwaters, or whether they entrust one body with activities both linked with surface waters and groundwaters. However, it is of the utmost importance that, where two or more joint bodies have been set up by riparian countries in the same catchment area, these countries agree on ways and means to coordinate the activities of these joint bodies.

Riparian countries should, where appropriate:

- assign to the joint body the task of transboundary groundwater monitoring and assessment following the recommendations of these Guidelines;

- make the joint body responsible for assessing the effectiveness of the agreed measures and the resulting improvements in groundwater management.

Joint bodies

According to the Convention, a joint body means any bilateral or multilateral commission or other appropriate institutional arrangements for cooperation between the Riparian Parties. In general, the tasks of joint bodies include the following:

- collect, compile and evaluate data in order to identify pollution sources likely to cause transboundary impact;

- develop joint monitoring programmes concerning water quality and quantity;

- draw up inventories and exchange information on the pollution sources mentioned above;

- establish emission limits for waste water and evaluate the effectiveness of control programmes;

- elaborate joint water-quality objectives and criteria for the purpose of preventing, controlling and reducing transboundary impact, and propose relevant measures for maintaining and, where necessary, improving the existing water quality;

- develop concerted action programmes for the reduction of pollution loads from both point sources (e.g. municipal and industrial sources) and diffuse sources (particularly from agriculture);

- establish warning and alarm procedures;

- serve as a forum for the exchange of information on existing and planned uses of water and related installations that are likely to cause transboundary impact;

- promote cooperation and exchange of information on the best available technology in accordance with the provisions of article 13 of the Convention (exchange of information between the Riparian Parties), as well as to encourage cooperation in scientific research programmes;

- participate in the implementation of environmental impact assessments relating to transboundary water, in accordance with appropriate international regulations;

- where two or more joint bodies exist in the same catchment area, they shall endeavour to coordinate their activities in order to strengthen the prevention, control and reduction of transboundary [sic]

(b) Drawing-up and implementation of action plans

Riparian countries should, where appropriate, entrust the joint body with the drawing-up and supervision of the concerted action plan or programme outlined in paragraph 8.1.

Where appropriate, riparian countries should also establish a technical working group under the joint body which is responsible for ongoing investigations under the action plan related to monitoring and assessment as well as for defining and implementing the monitoring and assessment strategy, including its technical, financial and organisational aspects.

Riparian countries should, through their respective joint bodies, establish close cooperation "across the border" between administrative authorities dealing with land-use planning and development, the rational use and the protection of groundwater and groundwater monitoring at the early stages of the planning process and at all levels of administration. This will help to overcome conflicting interests in sectoral planning both in the national and in the transboundary contexts.

Because of differences in the organisation of licensing procedures, riparian countries should jointly agree on a harmonised system of licensing procedures which does not conflict with the existing national legislation systems or adapt the national systems accordingly.

(c) Access to information

Through their joint bodies, riparian countries should give each other access to relevant information on surface water and groundwater quality and quantity. This should include, for example, information on surface water quality when surface water has been used as infiltration water for drinking water purposes.

Through their joint bodies, riparian countries should make arrangements so that the public has access to relevant information, collected both by riparian countries and by joint bodies.

To be effective, arrangements for the exchange of information among riparian countries and arrangements for the provision of information to the public should be governed by rules jointly agreed by the riparian countries. These arrangements should specify the format and frequency of reporting. The creation and maintenance of a joint database could also be useful. In drawing-up these arrangements, account should be taken of obligations under other international agreements and supranational law, such as European Community directives, to monitor, assess and report on groundwater quality and quantity.

(d) Quality systems

Riparian countries should, where appropriate, assign to their joint bodies responsibilities related to quality systems. Particular attention should be paid to the harmonisation of sampling and data-processing methodologies, as well as laboratory accreditation. Cooperation on the local level for carrying out monitoring practices should be encouraged and promoted including direct contacts between laboratories and institutions involved.

8.3 Other arrangements at the national and/or local levels

(a) Institutional, legal or administrative arrangements

The lack of proper institutional, legal or administrative arrangements at the national and local levels may considerably hamper international cooperation. Such arrangements include the cooperation between local governments, the responsibility for and ownership of groundwater, legislation and regulations (e.g. abstraction permits, protection areas), the coordination of quality and quantity monitoring by various national institutes and the appointment of a national reference laboratory.

Riparian countries should adapt existing agreements to the obligations set out in the Convention and draw up new agreements for establishing and maintaining harmonised or joint monitoring programmes in transboundary aquifers. These programmes should use standardised sampling and laboratory procedures.

(b) Financial arrangements

Riparian parties should provide sufficient funding for the execution of monitoring and assessment activities and joint research within the framework of the Convention. This funding could be part of the regular budget. Each country should take care of its own requirements. Funding can, for example, be based on pollution charges or fees. The establishment of an environmental fund, from which companies can take loans for investments, may accelerate improvements. Other possibilities for funding are applying for EU budgets (TACIS, PHARE) or other funds (GEF, World Bank). Generally, joint proposals are recommended because they are accepted more easily by the institutions involved.

[Omitted: Annex - Internationally used indicators]

42. Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands - Resolution VIII.40 - Guidelines for Rendering the Use of Groundwater Compatible with the Conservation of Wetlands [2002][104]

1. Recognizing the importance of the whole water cycle and the link existing between ground and surface water for their use and management, not only in arid and semi-arid regions but also in humid regions;

2. Taking into account the urgent need to decrease the loss and degradation of aquatic ecosystems through policies of sustainable development and conservation of biodiversity;

3. Also taking into account that maintenance of the ecological integrity of most wetlands, especially those located in arid and semi-arid zones, is closely linked to the supply of groundwater;

4. Aware of the importance that the use of groundwater has had for the economic development and improvement of welfare in many regions (mainly because of irrigated agriculture);

5. Equally aware of the negative impact that can be caused to wetlands because of uncontrolled development and lack of planning for groundwater; and recognizing the value of the Guidelines for the allocation and management of water for maintaining the ecological functions of wetlands, adopted in Resolution VIII.1;

6. Emphasizing that examples of the solution of conflicts between the use of groundwater and conservation of wetlands (for example, in the Mediterranean basin) can serve as exportable models for other areas facing the same problems;

7. Recalling that the Strategic Plan 1997-2002 of the Convention (Operative Objective 2.2) stresses the conservation of water and the need to protect wetlands dependent upon groundwater;

8. Taking into account that on occasions some regions suffer from inefficient management and regulation in the use of groundwater;

9. Aware of the difficulties of rendering the interests of the users (primarily farmers) compatible with conservation criteria for those areas, due to the fact that environmental problems are not taken into account;

10. Recognizing that many of these conflicts may be stimulated by certain subsidies for agriculture and other types of economic incentives, including for tourism; and

11. Stressing that the analysis of these issues and the solution of conflicts require a completely transparent environment, scientific rigour and, above all, participation of all actors involved in the management and use of water resources;

The Conference of the Contracting Parties

12. Urges the Contracting Parties to study the impact of the use of groundwater on the conservation of their wetlands in those territories where these conflicts exist;

13. Recommends that this analysis be carried out from an interdisciplinary point of view and with the participation of civil society;

14. Invites Contracting Parties to review their respective programmes of subsidies in order to ensure that they do not have negative consequences for the conservation of wetlands;

15. Encourages Contracting Parties to continue their efforts aimed at implementing existing provisions in this field; requests the Ramsar Bureau to support these efforts as much as possible; and proposes that the Scientific and Technical Review Panel advance in the study of the interaction between groundwater and wetlands, as requested in Resolution VIII.1, paragraph 19, and to develop guidance on the sustainable use of groundwater resources to maintain wetland ecosystem functions for discussion at COP9, in line with Action 3.4.7 of the Convention's Strategic Plan 2003-2008;

16. Urges the promotion of initiatives, supported by both the public and private sectors, for the participation of civil society in the management of groundwater, within the framework of integrated management of water resources;

17. Also encourages recognition of the importance of the associations of users for the management of groundwater, and the creation of such associations where they do not exist, and the dedication of efforts towards the objective that these associations contribute to the sustainable development of this resource in order to make possible the efficient use of groundwater and the conservation of wetlands;

18. Urges public institutions to ensure that a more decisive effort is made, within the framework of wetland-related education, communication and public awareness (CEPA) activities, with regard to groundwater, placing emphasis on its hydro-geological, social, economic and environmental aspects; and

19. Invites Parties to give more attention to the role of groundwater in maintaining the ecological functions of wetlands, in line with Operational Objective 3.4 of the Convention's Strategic Plan 2003-2008.

43. World Summit on Sustainable Development - Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development [2002][105]

[Omitted: I. Introduction, II. Poverty eradication, III. Changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production]

IV. Protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development

24. Human activities are having an increasing impact on the integrity of ecosystems that provide essential resources and services for human well-being and economic activities. Managing the natural resources base in a sustainable and integrated manner is essential for sustainable development. In this regard, to reverse the current trend in natural resource degradation as soon as possible, it is necessary to implement strategies which should include targets adopted at the national and, where appropriate, regional levels to protect ecosystems and to achieve integrated management of land, water and living resources, while strengthening regional, national and local capacities. This would include actions at all levels as set out below.

25. Launch a programme of actions, with financial and technical assistance, to achieve the Millennium development goal on safe drinking water. In this respect, we agree to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water, as outlined in the Millennium Declaration, and the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation, which would include actions at all levels to:


(d) Intensify water pollution prevention to reduce health hazards and protect ecosystems by introducing technologies for affordable sanitation and industrial and domestic wastewater treatment, by mitigating the effects of groundwater contamination and by establishing, at the national level, monitoring systems and effective legal frameworks;


26. Develop integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005, with support to developing countries, through actions at all levels to:

(a) Develop and implement national/regional strategies, plans and programmes with regard to integrated river basin, watershed and groundwater management and introduce measures to improve the efficiency of water infrastructure to reduce losses and increase recycling of water;


[Omitted: V. Sustainable development in a globalizing world; VI. Health and sustainable development; VII. Sustainable development of small island developing States]

VIII. Sustainable development for Africa


66. Promote integrated water resources development and optimize the upstream and downstream benefits therefrom, the development and effective management of water resources across all uses and the protection of water quality and aquatic ecosystems, including through initiatives at all levels, to:


(d) Protect water resources, including groundwater and wetland ecosystems, against pollution, and, in cases of the most acute water scarcity, support efforts for developing non-conventional water resources, including the energy-efficient, cost-effective and sustainable desalination of seawater, rainwater harvesting and recycling of water.


[Omitted: IX. Other regional initiatives; X. Means of implementation; XI. Institutional framework for sustainable development]

[94] Report of the United Nations Water Conference, Mar del Plata, 14–25 March 1977, UN Doc. E/Conf.70/29. United Nations publication Sales No. E.77.II.A.12.
[95] Adopted by the Economic Commission for Europe at its Forty-Fourth Session (1989) by decision E (44), UN Doc. E/ECE/1197, ECE/ENVWA/12.
[96] International Conference on Water and the Environment: Development Issues for the 21st Century, 26-31 January 1992, Dublin, Ireland.
[97] Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992, UN Doc. A/Conf. 151/26/Rev.1, Volume 1, Annex II.
[98] Report of the United Nations Water Conference, Mar del Plata, 14-25 March 1977, Part one, Chapter I, Section C, para. 35, United Nations publication, Sales No. E.77.II.A.12.
[99] A/45/696/Add. 1, Annex III, Preamble, para. 2.
[100] Yearbook of the International Law Commission, Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 135, 1994.
[101] UN ECE Task Force on Monitoring and Assessment, Guidelines on Monitoring and Assessment of Transboundary Groundwaters, Lelystad, 2000. The Guidelines were endorsed by the Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Helsinki, 17 March 1992) at their second meeting held at The Hague, 23–25 March 2000, in: UN Doc. ECE/MP.WAT/5 of 29 August 2000, p. 13.
[102] For technical details, the background reports prepared by the Core Group Groundwater, and international literature and handbooks on operational practices of monitoring and assessment (see further reading) should be consulted.
[103] In these Guidelines, as much use as possible has been made of the experience with the implementation of the Guidelines on Monitoring and Assessment of Transboundary Rivers in pilot projects and their updated version.
[104] Adopted at the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, 18–26 November 2002, accessible at ‹›, last accessed 31 July 2004).
[105] Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 26 August–2 September 2002, UN Doc. A/CONF.199/20.

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