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CEO Briefing: Global Depletion of Aquifers

Global companies must take an active role in groundwater governance to avoid existential risks. That is the main conclusion of the CEO Briefing on Global Depletion of Aquifers. The exposure of multinational companies to depleting and degrading groundwater is increasing. The rapid depletion of aquifers is a systemic risk to one billion people in the world’s growing economies. Aquifers are shared across national borders and have the potential to spark conflict. Companies must act beyond their site operations and help improve groundwater governance if they are to ensure their sustainable growth.

 
Turmoil in Saudi Arabian water sector as country runs dry

Half a century ago, Saudi Arabia sat on one of the world’s biggest and oldest aquifers, containing an estimated 500 cubic kilometres of water. However, there has been chronic mismanagement of water resources. In one generation most of that massive amount of water has been exhausted, mainly through a seriously flawed agricultural policy. The Saudi authorities have tried to lower water use, mounting big publicity campaigns and giving away water-saving devices such as more efficient showerheads. In some areas the campaigns have been successful, but the government is realising mistakes arising from its overly generous subsidy regime. Once people have grown used to paying virtually nothing for services, they deeply resent any charges – even if the taps are running dry.

 
Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change (GRAPHIC)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) International Hydrological Programme (IHP) initiated the Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change (GRAPHIC) project in 2004 to better understand the effects of climate change on global groundwater resources. GRAPHIC improves understanding of how groundwater interacts within the global water cycle, supports ecosystems and humankind and, in turn, responds to complex and coupled pressures of human activities and climate change. Timely for the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference UNESCO has produced a set of new GRAPHIC brochures: «Mitigating the Global Groundwater Crisis and Adapting to Climate Change» and on «Small Island Developing States», in English, en français y en español.

 
Groundwater and ethics - IAH Netherlands meeting

After the well-visited General Member's Meeting of IAH's Netherlands Chapter on 26 May 2016, a session on Groundwater and (Business) Ethics was chaired by the president of the Netherlands Chapter, professor Theo Olsthoorn. Based on a series of at least a dozen videos that are publicly available, participants discussed the involvement of Dutch and other companies in destruction of livelihoods in developing countries, often with the aid of tax money. In some cases land grabbing (which is often also water grabbing) is involved, in other cases it involves ‘only’ groundwater withdrawals for, for example, Dutch beer brands. Unintended but recognizable consequences.

 
Ecosystem conservation and groundwater

IAH, the International Association of Hydrogeologists, has published a new series: IAH’s Strategic Overview papers. The new series is designed both to inform professionals in other sectors of key interactions with groundwater resources and hydrogeological sciences and to guide IAH members in their efforts to promote improved understanding, wise use and protection of groundwater resources to related sectors. The papers are an authoritative summary for each topic drawing on the collective international experience of IAH, and are also a contribution to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Association. The latest Strategic Overview paper is on «Ecosystem conservation and groundwater». 

 
Climate change hits hard in Zambia: an African success story

Lake Kariba, Zambia — Even as drought and the effects of climate change grew visible across this land, the Kariba Dam was always a steady, and seemingly limitless, source of something rare in Africa: electricity so cheap and plentiful that Zambia could export some to its neighbors. The power generated from the Kariba – one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams, in one of the world’s largest artificial lakes – contributed to Zambia’s political stability and helped turn its economy into one of the fastest growing on the continent. But today, as a severe drought magnified by climate change has cut water levels to record lows, the Kariba is generating so little juice that blackouts have crippled the nation’s already hurting businesses.

 
City of Thorns – the world’s largest refugee camp – book of the month May 2016

Dadaab is a semi-arid town in Garissa County, Kenya. It is the site of a large UNHCR base hosting about 330,000 refugees, making it the largest refugee camp complex in the world. To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort. In cooperation with Athenaeum Boekhandel, Europe by People and Portobello Books, the very readable book City of Thorns was presented in Amsterdam on 13 May 2016 — recommended reading!

 
Export of hydrological knowledge – presentations available

On Thursday 12 May 2016 the Netherlands Hydrological Society (NHV), together with the Netherlands Chapter of IAH, organized a conference on the «Export of hydrological expertise» in an inspiring setting in Amersfoort (NL). The presentations are now available. As it turns out, hydrologists, water experts per se, are not benefiting much from the Dutch governmental efforts to promote water business.

 
Earth Observation for Water Resources Management – new World Bank book

Water systems are building blocks for poverty alleviation, shared growth, sustainable development, and green growth strategies. They require data from in-situ observation networks. Budgetary and other constraints have taken a toll on their operation and there are many regions in the world where the data are scarce or unreliable. Increasingly, remote sensing satellite-based earth observation is becoming an alternative. A new World Bank book briefly describes some key global water challenges, perspectives for remote sensing approaches, and their importance for water resources-related activities.

 
The Challenges for Transboundary Aquifer Management – IAH and IHP session

The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme is co-convening the Session «The Challenges for Transboundary Aquifer Management», to be held during the IAH 2016 Montpellier International Congress. Take a look at the complete programme of the Congress and the description of the session. The deadline for abstract submission has been extended.

 
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