20 years of Water Convention! Join efforts to promote cooperation across borders Print
News Waterfall - News Waterfall #1
Thursday, 31 May 2012 18:39

Transboundary water basins cover around 45% of the land surface of the earth. Cooperation across borders is essential for successful water management, to guarantee peoples’ well-being in the whole region, and to prevent conflict: this cooperation can be efficiently regulated through the ratification of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). The Convention was adopted in Helsinki, Finland, in 1992 and entered into force in 1996. It applies to both surface water and groundwater in the pan-European region, which includes Europe, North America, Caucasus, Central Asia and Israel.

In 2003, an amendment was adopted to allow accession by countries outside the UNECE region.

There are now 38 parties to the Convention and 21 parties have accepted the 2003 amendment.

The entry into force of the amendment expected in 2012 will transform the Water Convention into a global legal framework for transboundary water cooperation.

There are 2 Protocols to the Water Convention:

  • The Protocol on Water and Health adopted in 1999 at the occasion of the Third Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in London. The Protocol has entered in force on 4th August 2005.
  • The Protocol on Civil Liability and Compensation for Damage Caused by the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents on Transboundary Waters was formally adopted and signed by 22 countries at the Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” in Kiev in 2003. The Protocol has not entered into force.

The website of the Convention and the Protocols hosted by UNECE (http://www.unece.org/env/water) offers extensive resources, including documents and publications as well as information on status of ratification, events and various activities taking place under the two instruments. Text of the Convention and its amendments in English, Russian, French: http://www.unece.org/env/water/text/text.html

What is the Convention about?

The Convention takes a holistic approach based on the understanding that water resources play an integrated part in ecosystems as well as in human societies and economies. It is based on the concept of integrated water resources management.

The Convention obliges Parties to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impact, use transboundary waters in a reasonable and equitable way and ensure their sustainable management. Parties bordering the same transboundary waters shall cooperate by entering into specific agreements and establishing joint bodies. The Convention includes provisions on monitoring, research and development, consultations, warning and alarm systems, mutual assistance, and exchange of information, as well as access to information by the public.

Governing bodies of the Convention

Main governing body: meeting of the Parties. The sixth session of the Meeting of the parties to the Convention will take place on 28–30 November 2012 in Rome, Italy.

Bodies implementing the work plan: Bureau, Working Groups on Monitoring and Assessment and on Integrated Water Resources Management, Task Force on Water and Climate, Joint ad-hoc Expert Group on Water and Industrial Accidents, Legal Board and Collaborative center, such as the International Water Assessment Center.

The Water Convention secretariat of the UNECE carries out the secretarial functions.

In the framework of the Convention, many publications, including guidelines, recommendations, technical guidance, background reports and studies, have been developed on important thematic water management issues such as monitoring and assessment, flood prevention payments for ecosystem services and other. These publications can be found at:http://www.unece.org/env/water/publications/pub74.htm.

Public Information

Article 16 of the Convention is devoted to the public information and stipulates that Parties shall ensure that information on the conditions of transboundary waters, measures taken or planned to be taken to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impact, and the effectiveness of those measures, is made available to the public. For this purpose, the Riparian Parties shall ensure that the following information is made available to the public:

(a) Water-quality objectives;

(b) Permits issued and the conditions required to be met;

(c) Results of water and effluent sampling carried out for the purposes of monitoring and assessment, as well as results of checking compliance with the water-quality objectives or the permit conditions.

The Riparian Parties shall also ensure that this information shall be available to the public at all reasonable times for inspection free of charge, and shall provide members of the public with reasonable facilities for obtaining from the Riparian Parties, on payment of reasonable charges, copies of such information.

Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwater

In 2003, the Parties decided to regularly carry out joint or coordinated regional assessments in order to keep the status of transboundary waters in the UNECE region under scrutiny, to benchmark progress resulting from measures taken to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impacts. The first Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters was published in December 2007. Published in 2011, the second Assessment covers more than 140 transboundary rivers, 25 transboundary lakes and about 200 transboundary groundwaters in the European and Asian parts of the UNECE region. It is of fundamental importance, as it forms the basis for rational planning and decision-making. Publication “Second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters” (September 2011) can be found here: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=26343&;;L=0