Lessons For Transboundary Aquifer Management In The Southern Americas

2 Jan 2019 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
GENEVA, Switzerland

At the November 29 event in Geneva celebrating forty years of the Genevois Aquifer Agreement, OOSKAnews caught up with international delegate Luiz Amore, former Head of Foreign Affairs of the National Water Agency (ANA) of Brazil. Amore offers the following overview of the Swiss-French success from his perspective for our readers, observing the opportunity to draw on this experience in tackling supply challenges as well as the general management of the Guarani Aquifer in Latin America:

"For context, the Genevois Aquifer encompasses 50 square kilometers and involves governing bodies from two countries; while the Guarani Aquifer is over 1.1million square kilometers, and involves local and state governments in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In 2010, the Presidents of the four countries signed the Guarani Aquifer Agreement and in 2018, the National Parliaments completed an approval process. Upon official communication of the countries' approval to Brazil, as depositary of the Agreement, the Agreement will come into force.

The basis for the Franco-Swiss cooperation is embedded in a serious supply crisis in the 1970s when the wells dried up and threatened the city of Geneva and the surrounding cross-border communities. In the Geneva Aquifer Agreement, the melting waters of the mountains reach the Arve River, are treated and stored in the Geneva Aquifer, and are treated again after use and returned to the hydrogeological system. The Swiss constitution enables cantons to enter into cross-border agreements and this simplicity has enhanced continuing cooperation beyond the management of the Aquifer alone.

Today, Franco-Swiss cooperation has pioneered important investments in studies on the effects of pollutants in the environment that have been inherited from armaments of the First World War as well as more modern but persistent micro-pollutants of compounds of drugs, hormones, cosmetics, etc, which accumulate continuously in the waters.

The four bordering countries of the Guarani have recognized that, despite the enormous size of the aquiferr, the main threats to the regional water resources are associated with local use of water for drinking water supply and the economic development of the area.

Imminent critical challenges are emerging in Rivera (Uruguay) and Santana do Livramento (RS, Brazil), Pedro Juan Caballero (Paraguay) and Ponta Pora (Brazil), Concordia (Argentina) and Salto (Uruguay), among others. Cooperation among countries would demand good local, national and cross-border practices to address existing problems so as to enhance the impact of actions and reduce the investments needed for water treatment and community sanitation

In addition, general monitoring must continue. With the slowness of underground water movement, recharge and discharge areas must coexist in the borders (such as Pantanal wetland springs), in confined central areas (where water usage may not be sustainable / renewable), and in transition zones, where renovation has been hampered by inadequate land-use and land-use practices. In Ribeirao Preto-SP, the aquifer water level has been lowered by more than 60 meters.

Partners to the Guarani Agreement can use lessons learned from the Geneva Agreement such as the need for effective local management, articulated and facilitated through bilateral, trilateral and regional cooperation mechanisms; greater and better decentralization of powers; empowerment of people and greater resources for municipalities, based on integrated knowledge of reality, to foster collective awareness of problems and challenges; a continuing search for more harmonic and sustainable solutions.

It is the responsibility of all managers to coordinate analyses, efforts and resources so that populations can be strengthened and peace protected to encourage more profitable and prosperous coexistence between countries and our cross-border zones".