Strengthening Cooperation on Transboundary Groundwater Resources
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Water is life's most important natural resource, and groundwater is humanity's most vital source of that life-giving substance. Global freshwater resources contained in aquifer systems are two orders of magnitude greater than those found in rivers, lakes and other surface freshwaters combined. Moreover, more than one half of the world's population today is dependent on groundwater for its basic needs. A large number of the aquifers on which humanity depends lay across and underneath international political borders. According to the most recent studies of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), transboundary aquifers underlie the territory of nearly every non-island nation. The International Shared Aquifer Resources Management (ISARM) initiative, which was launched by UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme (IHP) in 2000, has identified more than 270 transboundary aquifers worldwide. In recent years, as communities and nations realized the significance of these shared freshwater resources, transboundary aquifers have become the subject of growing attention among aquifer riparians and the international community. Questions are now being raised with regard to the mechanisms for governing shared groundwater resources, the rights that aquifer riparians enjoy from a transboundary aquifer and the responsibilities that these nations might owe to other aquifer riparians.