Groundwater Governance and Management
Addressing the Groundwater Governance Challenge
This chapter provides an overview and thus contributes to a better understanding of the world’s groundwater resources, their distinctiveness and their governance. It describes the principal elements of and key instruments employed in groundwater governance. To this end, the authors introduce several case studies from across the globe and offer some corresponding lessons learnt. In particular, this chapter presents an analysis of the role of monitoring and assessment in groundwater governance, showcasing the example of The Netherlands. A global diagnostic of the current state of groundwater governance is provided, based on information from a set of commissioned thematic papers and the outcomes of five subsequent regional consultations carried out within the framework of a GEF-supported project.
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Article Illuminates Groundwater Governance
The growing importance of groundwater as a critical component of water supply for agriculture, urban areas, industry, and ecosystems has increased the need to protect aquifers worldwide from overexploitation. Water governance is central to achieving this end. Thus, the article "Modes and Approaches of Groundwater Governance: A Survey of Lessons Learned from Selected Cases across the Globe", by Robert G. Varady, Adriana A. Zuniga-Teran, Andrea K. Gerlak, and Sharon B. Megdal from the University of Arizona, analyzes ten selected groundwater-governance case studies from diverse regions to identify characteristics of good governance practice. The cases selected varied across four elements - institutional setting, availability and access to information and science, robustness of civil society, and economic and regulatory framework. All four of these elements were found to have important impacts on governance by affecting incentives, conflict, power relations, effectiveness, and sustainability of process and outcomes. In sum, critical capacities of governments at multiple levels and civil society actors were found in the characteristics of shared governance. This article was published in a Special Issue of the journal Water with the title Water Governance, Stakeholder Engagement, and Sustainable Water Resources Management , edited by the WRRC's Sharon Megdal and Susanna Eden and Eylon Shamir of the Hydrologic Research Center, San Diego, CA.
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ISMAR9 Call to Action Sustainable Groundwater Management Policy Directives
August 2016 saw the release of a Call to Action developed during two working sessions at the International Association of Hydrogeologists International Symposium for Managed Aquifer Recharge in June 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. A working group further refined the document in the following weeks. Designed for decision-makers and the public, the Call to Action is intended to inform, engage, and educate stakeholders on the critical need for addressing our shrinking groundwater resources now, before it is too late. The Call to Action is available in both English and Spanish.
The Groundwater Visibility Initiative: Integrating Groundwater and Surface Water Management
Making groundwater more “visible” was the subject of a workshop held in Denver, Colorado, April 28, 2016. The workshop marked the starting point for an initiative intended to raise awareness of groundwater, its characteristics, governance, and importance as a source for water resource sustainability. A report from that workshop was released in August 2016, which lays out key findings and recommendation, along with a call to action for elevating the status of groundwater in the minds of professionals, policy makers, and the public. In addition, a group of authors, including Michael E. Campana, William M. Alley, Lisa Beutler, Sharon B. Megdal, and John C. Tracy, have worked together on two papers published in August-September 2016. These papers carry out the call to action by getting the word out on the Groundwater Visibility Initiative and its goals.
Stakeholder participation is a foundation of good water governance. Good groundwater governance typically involves the co-production of knowledge about the groundwater system. Models provide a vehicle for producing this knowledge, as well as a “boundary object” around which scientists and stakeholders can convene the co-production process. Through co-production, stakeholders and scientific experts can engage in exchanges that create system knowledge not otherwise achievable. The process involves one-way transfer of information, active two-way conversations, and integration of multiple kinds of knowledge into shared understanding. In the Upper Santa Cruz River basin in Arizona, USA, the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) convened a project aimed at providing scientific underpinnings for groundwater planning and management. This project, entitled Groundwater, Climate, and Stakeholder Engagement, serves as a case study employing the first two stages of knowledge co-production using a hydrological model. Through an iterative process that included two-way communication, stakeholders provided critical input to hydrologic modeling analyses. Acting as a bridging organization, the WRRC facilitated a co-production process, involving location-specific and transferability workshops, which resulted in new knowledge and capacity for applying the model to novel problems.
Groundwater Quality Governance Survey
In the Fall of 2015 the Water Resources Research Center began the next phase of its “Groundwater Governance in the U.S.” project. A nationwide survey was developed in coordination with an advisory council from the Groundwater Research and Education Foundation (GWREF) and funded by a grant from the GWREF. The survey will be administered to state level officials who oversee groundwater quality programs in 2016 in order to identify on-the-ground practices that may help improve and enhance management of the nation’s water supplies.
Groundwater is a critical component of the water supply for agriculture, urban areas, industry, and ecosystems, but managing it is a challenge because groundwater is difficult to map, quantify, and evaluate. Until recently, study and assessment of governance of this water resource has been largely neglected. A survey was developed to query state agency officials about the extent and scope of groundwater use, groundwater laws and regulations, and groundwater tools and strategies.
In fall 2012, the Water Resources Research Center and the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona initiated the project “ Groundwater Governance in the U.S . ” The effort aims to better understand the scope of groundwater governance across the United States today. As a first step, the project launched a national - scale survey of state agency officials in the U.S.
Groundwater Governance - A Global Framework for Action (2011-2014) is a joint project supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), jointly with UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), the International Association of Hydrologists (IAH) and the World Bank. The project is designed to raise awareness of the importance of groundwater resources for many regions of the world, and identify and promote best practices in groundwater governance as a way to achieve the sustainable management of groundwater resources.
In this article, Dr. Sharon B. Megdal discusses Arizona groundwater management with a look at the tools that have been developed to support achievement of multiple policy objectives. The geographic focus is Central Arizona, the location of Arizona’s most populated metropolitan regions. Dr. Megdal explains how the foundation of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act has been built upon to facilitate meeting groundwater policy objectives. The framework allows for significant flexibility — or choices — on the part of those who must comply with the regulations.Several unresolved issues, or, as we sometimes call them, “holes in our water bucket” are also discussed.
Dr. Sharon B. Megdal discusses groundwater governance issues related to her international travels.
Water policies at national and transboundary levels remain focused almost exclusively on surface water issues. The ‘invisibility’ of groundwater in local and transboundary aquifers, the time over which impacts are eventually felt and the persistence of pollution, not to mention the differentiation between shallow and deep circulation, make governance problematic. Evidence of an effective management of groundwater resources able to sustain a set of social, economic and environmental services is virtually non-existent. An unprecedented increase in the use of groundwater, both in urban and rural areas, has occurred over the last few decades. This drastic change has been identified as the ‘silent revolution’ of water-supply, because it has occurred in many national as well as transboundary aquifers in a manner that has gone virtually unnoticed, unplanned and uncontrolled.
Planning to meet water demands in semi-arid regions is particularly challenging for groundwater dependent communities where aquifers are being replenished by intermittent streamflow events. Projected and observed climatic changes for the Southwest increase uncertainties. The project, Incorporating Climate Information and Stakeholder Engagement in Groundwater Resources Planning and Management, employs a novel modeling framework and extensive stakeholder interactions to achieve the following three objectives: (1) Address climate uncertainties with a sophisticated modeling framework; (2) Increase stakeholder capacity to adapt water planning and management to future climate uncertainties; and (3) Establish the transferability of the modeling framework and capacity building approach.