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Project Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management

The worldwide ISARM (Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management) Initiative is an UNESCO and IAH led multi-agency effort aimed at improving the understanding of scientific, socio-economic, legal, institutional and environmental issues related to the management of transboundary aquifers.

The issue of shared international waters is as old as the national borders that make those waters international. During the last century, a significant progress has been made in regulation of joint management of surface watercourses; many international river-, lake- or basin commissions have been set up and the legal treaties signed. Although some of these activities address "a groundwater component" as well, major comparable efforts related to the invisible groundwater have started just a several years ago with the ISARM Programme.

Since its start in 2002, ISARM has launched a number of global and regional initiatives. These are designed to delineate and analyse transboundary aquifer systems and to encourage riparian states to work cooperatively toward mutually beneficial and sustainable aquifer development.

ISARM is sponsored by UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (UNESCO IHP) and operates through a joint effort of a number of organizations, including amongst others:

  • International Association of Hydrogeologists(IAH)
  • UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
  • UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
  • Organisation of American States (OAS)
  • International Network of Water-Environment Centres for the Balkans (INWEB)
  • The Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS)
  • UN Economic & Social Commission for West Asia (UNESCWA),
  • University of Dundee (Law Department)
  • Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)


ISARM is linked to the UNESCO inititative From Potential Conflict to Co-operation Potential (PCCP), wich addresses the challenge of water sharing primarily from the point of view of decision makers and developers of conflict prevention tools.


Project number n/a
Acronym ISARM
Geographical coverage International, Libya
Budget (in €) 0
Programme UNESCO and IAH led multi-agency Initiative: From Potential Conflict to Co-operation Potential (PCCP)
Web site

The general ISARM objective is to contribute to the multifaceted efforts in global co-operation through providing for the planets needs in sustainable environments, economy, social and political security on internationally shared aquifers.

Specific project objectives

  • To establish a network of experts from different disciplines for identification and definition of internationally shared aquifers.
  • To promote scientific, legal, socio-economic, institutional and environmental assessment of internationally shared aquifer resources.
  • To identify several Case Studies of internationally shared aquifers and support multidiciplinary experts teams to conduct detailed investigations.
  • To learn, from Case Studies, the issues relevant to good management of internationally shared aquifers resources.
  • To raise the awareness of policy and decision makers of the significant and importance of transboundary aquifer resources, forming a critical component of the world freshwater resources.
  • To disseminate the lessons learnt from Case Studies and encourage policy and decision makers to incorporate appropriate internationally shared aquifer management.
  • To promote co-operation among experts from the different countries that share transboundary aquifers, through making available scientific tools, water resource management options and methodologies that apply to such aquifers.

ISARM has a quite broad scope of activities. At this moment the ISARM Core Group is preparing a new programme. The past period showed that the cooperation with other international organisations is of extreme importance, determining also the concrete role of ISARM in the certain region or within a certain project.  Although there is some shift within the scope of ISARM (some aspects of transboundary aquifers need en receive more attention), the scope as whole remains fairly unchanged. Some of the ISARM issues are listed below:  

  • Preparation and wide distribution of material promoting the concept of co-operation for optimal and sustainable management of internationally shared aquifers.
  • Dissemination of existing information on internationally shared aquifers, including the scientific, legal and other arrangements in FAO and other databases.
  • Setting up an ISARM web-portal.
  • Circulate and process a questionnaire to identify the significant internationally shared aquifers of the world with the contribution of the UNESCO IHP National Committees.
  • Develop co-operation with United Nations Economic Commissions, in particular with UNECE, for the implementation of the UNECE guidelines on monitoring and assessment of transboundary groundwaters and the setting up of training and exchange of information with the other regions.
  • Organisation of regional workshops and international conferences
  • Preparation of a bibliography and database of internationally shared aquifers.
  • Contributions for the improvement of standard monitoring procedures.
  • Preparation of course material and organisation of the courses on transboundary
  • Publication of the inventories of internationally shared aquifers.
  • Assisting transboundary aquifer in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The Global Overview contains a world map of countries and a set of aggregated groundwater-related attributes for each of the countries. The second Global Overview view is based on world map of groundwater regions (also provided with a corresponding attribute set). The map of groundwater regions and a description of the regions are also available in a pdf form. The third view is under development and it is dedicated to transboundary aquifers.

The attribute sets contain more than seventy attributes, divided in the following categories:


  • Base map
  • Physiography
  • Demography
  • Agriculture and economics
  • Aquifer characteristics
  • Groundwater quantity
  • Groundwater quality
  • Groundwater development
  • Groundwater Problems

ISARM made use of publicly available information found on the internet, in publications, reports and maps. The efforts of many individuals and organisations to produce and provide this information was indispensable and therefore is gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks go to the WHYMAP project team for providing information on hydrogeological maps.Attribute values were prepared by IGRAC with a lot of care, however, correctness of the original information could not always be checked. Moreover, not all the attribute values for all the countries could be found in a short period of time. Therefore, Global Overview needs to be constantly updated and improved. This can be effectively carried out only with an active participation of its users. ISARM COUNTS ON YOU! If you find an attribute value incorrect or you have access to information that allows reducing missing values please let us know! You can do that by filling in and sending a simple electronic form or by using an excel-based tool for off-line viewing and editing of data in Global Overview (available in English, Spanish and French). Any other comment or suggestion related to Global Overview is welcome as well.

Use of Global Overview is quite straightforward (see also Introductory Help). The module contains the standard GIS functionality, such as zoom in, -out, pan, identify, etc. At this stage (of Global Overview development) you can visualise a list of attribute values per country and display a regional or world-wide distribution of a selected attribute. The later version of Global Overview will have advanced search options, allowing multicriteria search for analogies.


Period 01/01/2002