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UN Groundwater Summit: the outcome of the side event about groundwater management in Asia and the Pacific

The UN Groundwater Summit was held at the UNESCO HQ in Paris on 7-8th December 2022. It is the first summit that the UN has focused on groundwater. UNESCO and International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC) co-organized the conference. Before the main conference, the official side event was organized on 6 December 2022. I organized a side event focused on groundwater management in Asia and the Pacific. I introduce the outcomes below.

The UN Groundwater Summit side event’s outcome is “Sustainable and climate-resilient groundwater management in Asia and the Pacific: Making the Invisible Visible.”

The session featured presentations on making groundwater – “the invisible” – visible from across Asia and the Pacific, including Central, East, and Southeast Asia as well as from Australia and the Pacific Islands. Presenters highlighted key achievements and challenges relating to groundwater management, drawing particular attention to the importance of sharing data, methodologies, and approaches between regions and countries as well as sectors and user groups. Each speaker also demonstrated how we could strengthen the science-policy-stakeholder interface to reduce groundwater vulnerability and enhance climate resilience through collective actions on groundwater management by multi-stakeholder in each groundwater basin.

Key messages

This session delivers the following key messages based on the presentation and panel discussion.

  • Increased understanding of groundwater systems and climate and acknowledging the true value of groundwater leads to improved governance, management, and social and economic outcomes.
    • Support and Invest in continuous Scientific efforts for the collection, archiving, and sharing of water data and information to improve understanding, valuing, and managing groundwater systems
    • In order to adapt to global change and to meet SDG 6 by addressing groundwater management issues,  we need to build up institutions and capacity, maintain and enhance groundwater resources and contribution ecosystems, build on local strengths, invest in education, and understand, value, and manage our vital groundwater systems.
    • To make the invisible visible, the data from the regions should be open and accessible, and shared among industry, government, and academia, and the results should be transferred to water users.
    • Invest in education and capacity development for a new generation of water professionals


Prof. Ian White, Emeritus Professor of Water Resources, shared the showcases of Australia and Pacific Small Islands Development States (SIDS). Examples were presented from very diverse Pacific Island Countries and Australia showing how an improved understanding of groundwater and climate and recognizing the value of water in countries with extreme ENSO-related variability have led to improved governance and management of resources. Additionally, recent natural disasters in the Pacific demonstrated the resilience of groundwater systems provided sound disaster response systems are in place. He noted how using ground penetrating radar to identify groundwater resources in the small island developing state of Tokelau, a low-lying atoll country, led to better water management policy options.

Prof. Takahiro Hosono, Faculty of Advanced Science and Technology, Kumamoto University, introduced Japan’s example. First, two types of environmental problems induced by groundwater excess pumping were introduced that Japan experienced in the last century, land subsidence and damage to underground constructions at the time of water level recovery.  Second, current environmental problems were introduced, such as groundwater nitrate contamination. Lastly, a watershed simulation model was proposed to help us visualize the invisible water and materials dynamics on a regional scale and make effective water resource management on a long time scale. He emphasized the data from the regions should be open and accessible, and shared among industry, government, and academia, and the results should be transferred to water users.

Dr. Surin Worakijthamrong, Deputy Director, Department of Groundwater Resources, Thailand Government, shared Thailand’s showcases. To tackle the climate change situation and respond to current water demand, the Department of Groundwater Resources of Thailand (DGR) has shifted from a small into a large-scale groundwater supply project, including an enlarged distribution system. As well as developed Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) to ensure that people will have enough water supply for consumption and agriculture and to improve their quality of life. Today, the DGR never stops seeking new technology, innovation, and philosophy to make groundwater more visible and make sure those groundwater management schemes go along with an equip regulation in a sustainable direction.

Dr. Barbara Janusz-Pawletts, German-Kazakh University in Kazakhstan, Coordinator of the UNESCO Chair, Mr. Dzhabasov Abay, Institute of Hydrogeology and Geoecology Ahmedsafin University, and Ms. Ekaterina Gorshkova, Kazakh-German University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Project manager shared the cases in Kazakhstan. Dr. Janusz-Pawletts highlighted Kazakhstan has great potential for groundwater but not use in full power. This could be changed by improving management (including on the transboundary level) and institutional mechanisms in the field of groundwater- especially by building on the experience of the GGRETA program of UNESCO for Central Asia. There needs to be more scientific research and monitoring, assessment, and forecasting of groundwater in Central Asia to ensure water security and sustainable use. It needs to involve youth, as future managers, in different levels of decision-making and ongoing activities and offer more educational programs related to groundwater. Hence, Dr. Abay presented an overview of the groundwater resources in Kazakhstan. He introduced the Institute of Hydrogeology and Geoecology was the only scientific organization in Kazakhstan in hydrogeology and geoecology. It provides policy recommendations as well as capacity-building programs for university students. Next, Ms. Gorshkova introduced the Center for Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at DKU. It conducts research for the Kazakhstan Country Climate and Development Report about the water-croplands and rangelands nexus through the World Bank Program. It provides recommendations for its climate adaptation and mitigation measures for policymakers and capacity-building programs.


Groundwater management challenges in Asia and the Pacific islands and the session introduction: Ms. Yumiko Asayama, Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF) Secretariat c/o Chief Manager, Japan Water Forum 

Showcases in Asia and the Pacific
・ Australia & SIDS of the Pacific: Dr. Ian White, Australian National University
・ Japan: Dr. Takahiro Hosono, Professor, Faculty of Advanced Science and Technology, Kumamoto University
・ Thailand: Dr. Surin Worakijthamrong, Deputy Director, Department of Groundwater Resources, Thailand
・ Central Asia: Dr. Barbara Janusz-Pawletts, the coordinator of the UNESCO Chair at the German-Kazakh University in Kazakhstan, and Ms. Ekaterina Gorshkova, German-Kazakh University in Kazakhstan, Mr. Abai Jabassov, Institute of Hydrogeology and Geoecology Ahmedsafin University
・ India: Dr. Aditi Mukherji, Principal Researcher, International Water Management Institute (IWMI) (could not present on the side event date due to the online connection issue)

Panel discussion
Moderators: Dr. Hans Thulstrup, Chief of Section, SC/EES/NBC, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO
Panelists: The above speakers

Summary and Wrap-up

(Reported by Yumiko Asayama, Chief Manager, Japan Water Forum)

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