World Summit on Groundwater at UNESCO, 7

The sustainable use of groundwater is vital for the future of humanity. But today, this resource is in a blind spot in terms of international cooperation. On Wednesday 7 December, Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, will open a world summit dedicated to this issue at UNESCO headquarters. She will advocate that States must systematically build groundwater into all water management plans and agreements.

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Four billion people live in water-scarce regions. This shortage is increasing with climate change. Groundwater is part of the solution if it is managed sustainably. To succeed, we need strong international cooperation. But today, only 1.2% of transboundary aquifers are managed by agreements and coordination mechanisms between the countries concerned. This Summit at UNESCO must multiply efforts
Audrey Azoulay
UNESCO Director General

Surface water contained in rivers and lakes has become rarer as a consequence of climate change and over-use. This has led many countries to rely more heavily on groundwater, with a six-fold increase in abstraction recorded globally over the last 70 years. Current levels of groundwater use are historically low.

Overexploited aquifers can result in loss of valuable ecosystems, land subsidence and sea-water intrusion into coastal aquifers. The deteriorating quantity or quality of the groundwater contained in aquifers is also hindering access to clean water and socio-economic development.

A Transboundary Water Cooperation Coalition

There is an urgent need to establish sustainable management of groundwater, which depends on international cooperation. But today, this cooperation doesn’t exist: out of 468 cross-border aquifers listed by UNESCO in the world, only 6 are managed by agreements and coordination mechanisms between the States concerned.

UNESCO, as the United Nations Organisation for Science, is committed to creating the conditions for this international cooperation. The 7-8 December Summit at the headquarters of the Organization will bring together 3,000 people from across the world to respond to this challenge: representatives of the 193 Member States of UNESCO, United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, etc.

UNESCO has set the objective of launching a Transboundary Water Cooperation Coalition for concrete commitments to be presented at the United Nations Water Conference which will take place in New York in March 2023.

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