UNECE Water Convention assessment of transboundary waters

02/11/2007

Our waters: joining hands across borders

The Ramsar Secretariat works closely with the UNECE “Water Convention” (*) on innovative issues such as “nature for water”, or the role of ecosystems as water suppliers or on “recommendations on the payments for ecosystem services in integrated water resources management”, adopted in 2006.

During the 6th Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” in Belgrade, Serbia, on 10 October 2007, the Water Convention launched the first ever in-depth report on transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwaters covering 140 transboundary rivers and 30 transboundary lakes in the European and Asian parts of the UNECE region, as well as 70 transboundary aquifers located in Southeastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.

This Assessment provides a clear overview of transboundary water resources. It highlights the achievements and challenges that countries still face in operating adequate monitoring systems, examines existing pressure factors on transboundary water bodies, and provides information on trends in their ecological and chemical status. The Assessment also sheds light on the effectiveness of the measures taken and provides the grounds for further measures to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impact.

The document of nearly 400 pages, richly illustrated with basin maps, graphs and photos, provides a sound basis for 56 countries in the UNECE region for a reasonable and equitable use of waters in transboundary basins which cover about 40% of the region. National Ramsar administrative authorities have herewith a tool at hand to link specific issues of wetland wise use and management in transboundary basins and aquifers with more technically-oriented water resources management activities. It is up to national Ramsar authorities to make their contributions heard during the preparation of the second assessment, soon to be started in view of a planned publication date in five years’ time. Old problems still persist and new issues need to be tackled: risks of upstream-downstream conflicts attached to water sharing, overuse of groundwater resulting from increasing abstraction for agricultural purposes and drinking water supply, contamination of water supplies by pollution from point sources, such as municipal sewage treatment and old industrial installations, from diffuse sources, such as agriculture and urban areas, and the effects of climate change on water resources upon which also wetland ecosystems depend. Let’s use the Ramsar’s water-related guidance provided in Handbooks 6-9 to forge concrete working links between wetland management and restoration and integrated water resources management activities.

A announcement (PDF) describing the Assessment can be seen here. Printed copies of the Assessment can be requested in writing to olga.carlos@unece.org . The electronic version is available for download on the Water Convention’s Web site www.unece.org/env/water/publications/pub76.htm .

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

(*) the short name for the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

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