The term "Aquifer Systems" as used in the ILC's Draft Articles on the law of transboundary aquifers - what implication for the resource analysts?

Shaminder Puri1, Teodora Szocs2
1 International Association of Hydrogeology
2 Geological and Geophysical Institute of Hungary

O 2.9 in Aquifer systems in Europe and beyond

15.04.2016, 09:45-10:00, Audimax B, Geb. 30.95

The UN ILC's Draft Articles use the term "aquifer systems" to denote the three dimensional nature of aquifer dynamics. Describing aquifers in this way  gives the assurance that both lateral and vertical exchanges of fluids in aquifers are taken account of. International water law, as expressed in the UN 1997 Convention, the UN ECE Convention and the EU WFD, use the term "groundwater" in generic terms, thus potentially losing sight of several key features of aquifers. Is this simply a matter of semantics or does it have greater significance? 


The interface between legal negotiations and science based resource analysis is a complicated one. Semantic differences in such wording can have a deep seated impact on the quality of international agreements. Where such agreements relate to regionally large aquifers, with transit times measured in tens of decades, disregarding vertical flows, or the change of storage, will create future economic losses, increase the potential for conflict and the possible collapse of the aquifer system and the ecosystems that rely on it. Even in transboundary aquifers that are small in dimension, focusing on 'groundwater' but disregarding the 'aquifer system' may be prone to risks that are unacceptable.


Using examples from Central Europe (Mesozoic Transboundary aquifer), the Middle East (Rum-Saq aquifer), the high relevance of 'aquifer systems' vs 'groundwater' will be presented. 

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