Integrated Water Resource Management course in Switzerland


For the second time in 2003, the Swiss Centre of Hydrogeology (CHYN) at Neuchâtel University has organized a one-week course from 30 August to 6 September 2003 on "Applied Integrated Water Resource Management", in cooperation with the World Bank Institute and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and with active input from the Ramsar Bureau, IUCN-ELC, WBCSD, FAO, WSSCC and others (cf. course programme below). The first course offering took place in June.

The course presented an opportunity to bring together senior experts from different fields: water management engineers, environmental specialists, lawyers, administrators and planners at national and local level, representatives of international organizations and banks, river basin citizen groups, NGOs, and others. It addressed with interactive sessions themes covering: enabling environments, laws, ethics and politics, economics, hydrology and ecosystems, agriculture, food and water tradeoffs, water sanitation, health, and others. Ramsar Bureau staff covered a session on "ecosystem considerations" presenting basic principles related to the Water Cycle, inspired by Ramsar's World Wetlands Day theme for 2003: "No wetlands - no water !", and making reference to the 12 Ecosystem Approach Principles adopted by CBD, the joint WSSD declaration by the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Ramsar, and WWF on "Sustainable management of water resources: the need for a holistic ecosystems approach", and others. This was complemented by participants' work in smaller groups to compare the respective values of the references to ecosystems made in the Global Water Partnership's TAC background paper 4 (on IWRM, soon to be replaced by a more expanded paper No. 9) against Ramsar's Water Allocation Guidelines adopted through ResolutionVIII.1. People who participated in this course are now aware of environmental needs to be taken into account when trying to achieve integrated water management. The World Bank Institute plans to repeat such courses in the near future at a regional level.

An excursion brought the course participants to a visit of the water station Moyat in the Gorges de l'Areuse close to Neuchâtel. Here, the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds (35,000 inhabitants) is capturing underground water from the Jura limestone karst aquifer next to the Areuse river for drinking water supply some 30 kms away. The Areuse river provides the force to generate electricity (with turbines installed on-the-spot) to pump the drinking water 500m up to the high valley of La Chaux-de-Fonds. The local hydroelectric works usually also produce some surplus electricity to be fed into the regional grid. A win-win situation that has been producing drinking water and electricity since the 1920s (cf. attached photographs).

Course participants at the underground drinking water capture tunnel.

The engines to pump the drinking water 500m up to the Jura mountain town of La Chaux-de-Fonds (foreground) and the electricity generating water turbine (background) of the Moyat factory.

A swallow hole in the karst limestone rocks near Ponts-de-Martel where surface water disappears to reappear further down at the Moyat capture.

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar.

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