UN-Water Summit on Groundwater - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
Speech

8 Dec 2022

UN-Water Summit on Groundwater

                                                                                                                        UN-Water Summit on Groundwater

                                                                                                                                      Regional Dialogue

                                                                                                              UNESCO, Paris, Thursday, 8 December 2022

 

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning,

Water is life and water security is human security, it is our security…

Yesterday, we heard about the importance of making the invisible visible.

As we advocate to make groundwater more visible – in agriculture, industry, cities, and in our daily lives – I say that we not only need more visibility, but also need to ensure groundwater sustainability to achieve water security for all – and particularly in regions most vulnerable to water scarcity, drought, and disasters.

Groundwater is a strategic resource, yet it is not strategically managed:

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, groundwater could satisfy rapidly increasing water demand and support economic development. However, over-exploitation threatens water security in cities, remote communities, and productive ecosystems.
  • In Europe, some 75 per cent of households depend on groundwater, while in North America, dependency on groundwater has increased in recent years. Pollution risks have raised awareness of the need to protect water quality to avert health hazards.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, specifically in arid and semi-arid zones, groundwater plays a key role in the water supply systems of most cities. However, improved groundwater protection and monitoring are needed to tackle intensive exploitation and increasing contamination.
  • The Asia-Pacific region, the largest groundwater abstractor region worldwide, includes 7 of the 10 largest groundwater-extracting countries. More sustainable groundwater management practices are needed to integrate groundwater protection into urban and rural development strategies.
  • In the Arab region, groundwater is the primary water source for more than half of the countries, with most aquifer systems in the region shared by two or more States. However, fossil groundwater is being extracted at unsustainable rates to support food security and livelihoods, while the salinization and pollution of coastal aquifers systems threaten the ability of cities and informal communities to meet their basic needs.

Colleagues,

Collective commitment is needed to sustainably manage groundwater resources.

Regional coordination provides a critical bridge between the global and national levels, and between countries and communities that share aquifer systems.

In this regard, the following five priority interventions are proposed:

  • First, improved groundwater governance and participatory approaches are needed that benefit from indigenous knowledge, innovative technologies, and regional dialogue.
  • Second, sustainable groundwater management requires cross-sectoral partnerships and integrated plans that take into consideration the needs of multiple users and the protection of the resource from various sources.
  • Third, as a strategic resource, groundwater should be a core component of national development plans and regional initiatives, including those that enhance transboundary cooperation and reduce risks posed by climate change and human-made disasters.
  • Fourth, improved data and information are needed to inform action and cooperation at the aquifer level. This is why ESCWA is launching the Arab Groundwater Knowledge Platform to improve the availability and accessibility of information on renewable and non-renewable groundwater resources in the region.
  • And fifth, finance is needed to implement groundwater projects that are based on a shared knowledge base, stakeholder engagement, and strategic plans that consider the needs of present and future generations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This Groundwater Summit highlights the critical importance of protecting groundwater as a strategic resource at the country, regional and global levels.

This urgency must be carried forward to the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, the regional preparatory meetings for the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and in our collective efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Together, the United Nations Regional Commissions are dedicated to making groundwater more visible.  We look forward to continuing to work with  the UN-Water family,  our member States, and with you to ensure that groundwater is central to ensuring sustainability, peace, prosperity and security for all.

Thank you.

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