Despite the acknowledgement of groundwater as a key resource for achieving water-related Millennium Development Goals on the African continent, why is there little or no management of the resource? Experts have attributed this problem to: the limited or basic information that exists on aquifer systems and their water storage; the unwillingness or limited capacity of water managers to monitor groundwater abstraction and discharges of contaminants from economic activities and sanitation systems; the inadequacy of national laws in protecting the resource; and a strangely enough a general belief that groundwater is endless because it cannot be seen.
Experiences from groundwater management training courses delivered by the African Groundwater Network in cooperation with the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Cap-Net and the EU Project ERA-Net SPLASH also show that although lake and river basin organizations (L/RBOs) have expressed the need to address groundwater management they are often not aware of the “how to” of sustainable management of groundwater resources. This has spurred the idea of supporting the process of integrating groundwater management into the mandate of basin organisations with an initial focus on transboundary waters.
The focus on transboundary waters is in part driven by the motivation that transboundary groundwater management could serve as a nucleus for cooperation between neighbouring states. One of the implied activities is supporting information sharing between states by contributing data to existing hydrological databases.
From the onset, some critical questions to be asked are: which basin organizations do already consider groundwater in their water management strategies and what does this imply for the riparian states? What relevant processes are needed to institutionalize groundwater in existing basin organizations? And which capacity development activities are needed for achieving this? Led by BGR, Cap-Net and the partner organizations have begun answering these questions and with a needs assessment for groundwater management in transboundary basin organizations. Following this exercise, adaptation of existing groundwater training materials with capacity building networks, and a training and dialogue workshop with basin managers will be held in early 2012. This will be the kick off of what is expected to be a broader programme on this theme.