A Triumph Of Innovation And Governance: Forty Years Of Cooperation On The Transboundary Genevois Aquifer

GENEVA, Switzerland

A forty year success story of transboundary governance by Switzerland and France of the Genevois Aquifer ("Nappe du Genevois") was celebrated in Geneva November 29 with a one-day seminar "Shared Management of Resources: A Pioneer Experience on Water".

This is Part One of an OOSKAnews Feature to mark the anniversary.

A full audio interview with Alice Aureli, Chief of Groundwater Systems and Settlements Section, UNESCO Water Sciences Division, can be found here on YouTube.

Lake Geneva and the Genevois Aquifer provide drinking water for nearly 700,000 inhabitants of the Franco-Genevese region. The aquifer, shared by the Swiss Canton of Geneva and France's Haute-Savois Department is jointly expolited through ten wells in Switzerland and four wells in France.

In the 1960s and 1970s it was identified that the level of the aquifer had dropped because of large and uncoordinated pumping on both sides of the border, prompting consideration of technical solutions to overexploitation of the groundwater resources, to include artificial recharge of the aquifer during winter, when demand is lower, with water from the Arve River.

An innovative artificial recharge system became operational in 1980 while, in parallel, organizational, administrative, financial, legal and political mechanisms have been deployed with an aim to achieve transboundary consensus on joint management and protection of the groundwater resources. The Genevois Aquifer is to date one of the few examples of an agreement for local level management of a transboundary aquifer.

Since the artificial recharge system's inception, it has allowed an overall contribution of 300 million cubic meters of filtered water to the Genevois Aquifer. OOSKAnews caught up in Geneva with Alice Aureli, Chief of Groundwater Systems and Settlements Section, UNESCO Water Sciences Division. In this audio interview, Aureli describes the functions of UNESCO's International Hydrological Program and her Groundwater Systems and Settlements Section; the importance of groundwater resources as the planet's climate changes; the technical and governance challenges of shared, transboundary groundwater resources around the world; and the lessons that can be learned from the success story of the Genevois Aquifer.

The full audio conversation with Alice Aureli is available here on YouTube.

In a second interview to be transmitted in January, OOSKAnews will talk to Gabriel de los Cobos, Service of Geology Soil and Waste of the State of Geneva about the specific technical and governance challenges of the Genevois Aquifer, and the secrets of the forty year success story.