Sustainable Management of the Shared Nubian Aquifer System

Joint Authority for the Study and Development of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System; National Water Research Center, Egypt

To narrow down potential conflicts over shared aquifer resources, it is crucial to establish dialogue and constructive cooperation to harmonize differing interests. In absence of regional cooperation there is risk to impose high socio-economic cost and incur loss of resources. Regional cooperation should lead to identification of mutual opportunities for socio-economic development. Regional cooperation is therefore imperative for water security and sustainable management of shared aquifers. In this respect, the proposed event presents the experience of regional cooperation over the management of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS). The NSAS is the world’s largest known fossil aquifer system. It is located in the North East corner of Africa, and spans the political boundaries of Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan. The event will be an opportunity to present example of a hydrosolidarity success story at the level of transboundary aquifer systems. The support provided from regional and international organizations plays a major role in sustaining such successful cooperation mechanisms. The event will therefore tackle the reasons of success considering challenges and opportunities of regional cooperation. It will offer opportunity to exchange views and experiences. Achieved regional cooperation over the NSAS provides good practice for the management of shared aquifer resources.

16:00 Welcome Message and Opening Remarks
Mohamed Abdel Motaleb, President of the National Water Research Center, Egypt.




16:05 Statement from the Nubian Aquifer Countries: Joint Authority of the Nubian Aquifer System
Idriss Malloum, Chairperson of the Joint Authority.




16:10 Management of Transboundary Groundwater: The Nubian Aquifer Experience
Ahmed Khater, National Water Research Center, Egypt.




16:25 Sustainable Management of Transboundary Aquifers
Francesco Sindico, University of Strathclyde, Scotland.




16:40 The challenges of  Groundwater Governance in a Transboundary Setting
Astrid Hillers, GEF - International Waters.




16:55 Space Science Applications to Groundwater in Arid Zones
Rosa Lasaponara, Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis, Italy.




17:10 Panel Debate: Groundwater Resources in Arid Zones: Strengthening Water Security for Sustainable Development of the Nubian Aquifer System”
Alice Aureli, UNESCO-IHP
Vladimir Mamaev, UNDP-GEF




 With the adoption of the post-2015 SDGs, sustainability is currently at the forefront of the global agenda. Sustainable management of transboundary aquifers is a complex undertaking. Yet, the quality of water management work and the analysis of sustainability can be largely enhanced with new scientific tools and modern methods of water research comprising: geophysical prospecting, remote sensing, geoinformatics, isotope hydrology, environmental tracers, automatic data collection, modeling and the coupling of models from different disciplines. Such new tools and modern methods can assist in the analysis of whether the present management is sustainable and in the definition of strategies and measures to achieve sustainability. Furthermore, the natural and engineering sciences have to interface much more with economics and politics to be of real practical use.

 In a transboundary aquifer system, underling the territory of several countries, political borders add additional constraints that complicate a full understanding and rational management of such shared resources. All transboundary water bodies create hydrological, social and economic interdependencies between societies. Overexploitation can lead to serious transboundary problems, and could provide a source of conflict between the riparian countries, particularly where water resources are scarce. Lack of coordinated management of shared groundwater resources can result in risk to impose high socio-economic cost and incur loss of resources and benefits. The need for technical-socio-political cooperation through joint management of transboundary aquifers is necessary for optimizing socio-economic development. Utilization of shared aquifers in competitive way can damage dependent ecosystems. In order to minimize environmental risks procedures for protection and monitoring of shared aquifers should be developed and applied. However, establishment of regional cooperation mechanisms, is a prerequisite for this action.

 According to the Nubian aquifer practice, initiation of cooperation over transboundary management stems from the need to assess the aquifer system’s potential. The main feature of this process is the cooperation to establish unified and consistent knowledge base on the status of the aquifer system. Scientific knowledge is necessary for the specification of the problems and reaching consents, but its translation into policy is conditioned by institutional arrangements Groundwater management either within a national or transboundary context is very much about making informed decisions. Sound monitoring data is therefore an essential prerequisite to implementing any form of transboundary governance. In shared aquifer systems, an understanding of the national institutional arrangements for groundwater management is a precondition for developing successful regional groundwater management setups. The Nubian countries have institutionalized their regional cooperation through the Joint Authority framework. The Joint Authority is an important part of the region’s institutional architecture for transboundary water management. However, evolution of a functional setup of such transboundary cooperation framework has been an inevitably long and complex journey. Political will and commitment, are prerequisites for successful development of such joint management institutional arrangement.

 The continuous support and technical assistance provided from regional and international organizations (UNDP-GEF, UNESCO-IHP and IAEA), on bi- and multi-lateral basis, have contributed to the development of inter-state multidisciplinary understanding of the characteristics and functioning of the Nubian aquifer system. Such cooperation has been instrumental in improved communications and joint setting of priorities over the Nubian aquifer through Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and formulation of a Strategic Action Programme (SAP). The regional SAP document endorsed by the four Nubian countries provides a roadmap for the way forward, stating mutually identified management actions, policy, legal and institutional reforms, success factors, involved uncertainty/risk, and investments needed to address specific priority transboundary problems.

 The event offered an opportunity for sharing practices from real experience on regional cooperation over the management of a transboundary shared aquifer resource, including water research modern methods and transboundary governance considerations. Lessons learned from the development of regional cooperation over the Nubian aquifer could help guiding development of cooperation mechanisms over similar transboundary aquifer systems.

Sustainable Management of the Shared Nubian Aquifer System
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