The role of groundwater continues to gain importance on the global agenda. Global Groundwater Sustainability – A Call to Action – a statement calling for action to ensure that groundwater benefits society now and into the future – currently has over 1,200 signatories from 99 countries. This highlights the concern of a large number of groundwater scientists, practitioners and experts regarding the status of global groundwater resources, despite the increased attention. We still do not have sufficient knowledge of the world’s groundwater resources, and more importantly, we do not adequately manage aquifers. With a lack of information on groundwater, there is an increasing risk of further negligence and sidelining of the issue, as the ‘problem child’ in water resources management. This will have significant repercussions on sustainability, as we all recognize the critical importance and human dependence on groundwater in building resilience to climate change and for water and food security across the globe. While concern is overriding, the Call to Action on Global Groundwater Sustainability also provides hope, in that a large group of stakeholders are increasingly committed to addressing issues related to groundwater from various angles and at different scales.
Every year, the World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater, with a theme proposed by UN-Water members and partners two to three years in advance. According to an announcement by UN-Water at its 30th meeting in Rome, Italy, from January 31, 2019, to February 1, 2019, the theme for World Water Day in 2022 will be ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’. This is an important step in gaining the necessary attention for the role of global groundwater resources.
Subsequently, through an announcement by UN-Water at its 32nd meeting in Rome, Italy, on January 28-29, 2020, a proposal was made to hold a Groundwater Summit in 2022. This was proposed by the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC) along with a number of UN-Water members and partners, including partners from the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
The focus of the Groundwater Summit will be to improve the science-policy-practice interface through the following:
- Highlighting the role of groundwater in the broader socioeconomic and environmental context. This will be addressed in the World Water Development Report (WWDR), an annual publication by UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP).
- Providing information on groundwater management and governance. This will be addressed through the creation of a Catalogue of Groundwater Management and Governance Measures.
Both, the WWDR and Catalogue, will be developed prior to the summit, but presented and discussed with policy- and decision-makers at the summit.
The concept for the Groundwater Summit and the Groundwater catalogue will be further scoped out with members and partners of UN-Water in preparation for its 33rd meeting, which is scheduled to be held in August this year in Stockholm, Sweden.
The proposed Groundwater Summit, the Call to Action on Global Groundwater Sustainability, and related products and outcomes will be closely aligned with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Groundwater Governance – A Global Framework for Action, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
The groundwater value framework for the proposed groundwater summit (source: IGRAC).