The Sustainable Development Goals in focus at the second SADC-GMI Groundwater Conference

Delegates at the 2nd SADC-GMI Groundwater Conference 2019 (photo: SADC-GMI).

The 2nd Groundwater Conference hosted by the Southern African Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) was held on September 4-6, 2019, at the Southern Sun Hotel, OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme for this year’s conference was aptly titled Groundwater’s Contribution to Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in SADC Region. With intensified efforts underway to measure the progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and organizing workable institutions to play key roles, the conference focused on how countries in the SADC region could further strengthen their policies and implementation strategies towards this process with a focus on groundwater. Each day, on average, 150 delegates from close to 20 countries, from Southern Africa and beyond, attended the three-day workshop.

Besides plenary keynotes and presentations, the conference also included two interactive panel discussions on Deep groundwater exploration in SADC and Groundwater and the Sustainable Development Goals: What is needed to move beyond status quo and achieve the targets?

Dr. Karen Villholth, Leader of IWMI’s Research Group on Resilient and Sustainable Groundwater, delivers a keynote presentation on ‘Groundwater and the Sustainable Development Goals – Interlinkages and Supportive Guideline Development’ (photo: SADC-GMI).

The conference provided the opportunity for participants to share facts, views and ideas around groundwater – from groundbreaking research on modelling groundwater interactions to policy interventions, and data and information management in the digital era.

Ultimately, the common message from the keynote speakers, presenters and panel discussions emphasized the centrality of groundwater in providing lasting water solutions for the SADC region. However, it is important that policies and practices align with scientific best practice, and holistic and cost-effective, socially acceptable approaches to ensure the sustainable and equitable use of groundwater. The resource is under threat due to the limited information available for its effective management and optimal usage. Nonetheless, groundwater remains a central resource that can help to achieve SDG 6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, a sentiment that was widely shared among conference participants.

The conference was organized by SADC-GMI in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – International Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), South Africa.

 

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