Most folks in the water community know there is an annual World Water Day that comes around every year, and March 22, 2013 was the most current of these annual events. But many are not aware that 2013 has been proclaimed the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation - yep, the whole year!
The year kicked off with World Water day on March 22, but there are various other water events scheduled throughout the year, including selection of the "Water for Life" (UN-Water Best Practices) award - with nominations being accepted through September 15. There is also the Out of the Blue poetry competition for young people (in three age categories) which this year involves creating short water videos. Submissions for this competitive judging event are open until October 30.
Anyway, while the material I've looked at is largely focused on surface water systems, there are a smattering of groundwater mentions as well. Yes, groundwater always seems to be the stepchild in water resources. One groundwater mention on these pages involves a reported decision by Saudi Arabia to offer incentives for Saudi corporations to lease large tracts of African agricultural lands for the importation of up to 12% of the country's cereal grains - thus being able to reduce their groundwater use (and groundwater depletion) by the same amount. I don't know what this arrangement has to do with water cooperation, as it seems strictly a business proposition to me.
Yet the need for cooperation in surface water systems is undeniable. According to the material there are 276 transboundary river basins in the world - 64 in Africa; 60 in Asia; 68 in Europe; 46 in North America
and 38 in South America. And over these basins, there are approaching 450 international agreements that have been negotiated and signed in the last 190 years or so (between 1820 and 2007).
That's a lot of cooperation it would seem, but it's only half the story. Maintaining these agreements over time can be challenging at best. You need only look to the Republican River Compact (Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado); the Arkansas River Compact (Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma); the Platte River Agreement (Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska); the Colorado River Compact (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada; California and Mexico) and probably every other western US compact to see evidence of deteriorating cooperation. Of course, there are rumblings of water discontent throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa as well.
It seems to me that the model of cooperation might go to the Danube River Basin - which starts in Germany and courses through 18 (or 19) countries before it discharges to the Black Sea in Romania and Ukraine. Kudos to these countries for developing the Danube River Basin District Management Plan - and for including related groundwater elements, too.
Anyway, 2013 has been designated the Year of Water Cooperation, for all the right reasons. I hate to tell them, but they're going to need at least a decade. Nah, that's not even enough time.