The II International Symposium on Transboundary Waters in Latin America and the Caribbean, organized by the Plurinational State of Bolivia was held from November 30 to December 3. Verónica Minaya, Officer of Natural Sciences of the UNESCO office in Quito and representative for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, participated in a series of talks and lectures aimed at strengthening dialogue, cooperation, exchange of experiences, lessons learned and best practices among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on the management of transboundary water resources, promoting integration among peoples, Mother Earth and water-related life systems. This symposium took place in the context of a growing environmental crisis and particularly an urgent need for cooperation to safeguard and utilize well the tools available for the sustainable use of transboundary water resources.
The organizing committee of the Symposium invited UNESCO's Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), represented on this occasion by the Natural Sciences Officer of the UNESCO Quito Office, to present the initiatives and projects they are managing in the region on transboundary water issues and in particular on "Knowledge management and information systems for decision making". As part of the effects of climate change in the region, a reduction in precipitation and an increase in temperature are expected in the coming years, which may hinder navigation and commercial activities on which many families depend. For this reason, this symposium was a unique opportunity to go into depth on the objectives and resources that UNESCO-IHP makes available to the governments of the region on water quality issues: Water Quality Portal, IHP-WINS Platform (Geonode), UNESCO Digital Library (UNESDOC), Webinars and IHP-LAC courses.
In addition, Verónica Minaya was part of the panel "Knowledge Management and Information Systems for Decision Making" which addressed the initiatives UNESCO is carrying out in the use of technology in information platforms in a context of climate uncertainty. The panel was attended by experts from the Amazon Regional Observatory (ARO), Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), Water and Sanitation Division of IDB, General Secretariat of CIC-Plata, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and Ibero-American Meteorological and Hydrological Services (CIMHET).
In Veronica Minaya's presentation within the special panel: "Knowledge Management and Information Systems for Decision Making in Contexts of Climate Uncertainty", she presented UNESCO's IHP initiatives, which are focused on 3 main themes:
Information systems to make information available to different decision-makers, and
Dissemination of the initiatives through newsletters, documents, reports and capacity building workshops and courses (on-site and online).
Through these themes of work, IHP contributes to research, education and capacity building related to water resources management. For example, the Governance of Groundwater in Transboundary Aquifers (GGRETA) project, which focuses on the management of transboundary aquifers, and ISARM, which has supported the inventory and study of transboundary aquifer systems with a total of 600 TAS, with detailed studies in 199 of them. The GGRETA project - Trifinio aquifer case has had 3 phases:
Phase 1 (2013-2015): to know and understand technically-scientifically how the aquifer interacts. This information was used to understand the interactions.
Phase 2 (2016- 2018): Improve dialogue between countries for the benefit of transboundary resource use. Shared governance and management model between countries. Including pollution sources, water quality, technical capacity building.
Phase 3 (2020-2022): Strengthen stability, dialogue and cooperation leading to a transboundary agreement.
In addition, she presented the opportunities provided by the UNESCO Water Quality Portal, which is available for those institutions and governments that need to monitor water quality in water bodies. The portal is a tool that encourages scientific research, use of technology and reinforces the capacity and knowledge of users, but also provides a graphical interface to facilitate decision-making based on scientific data, especially for authorities. It also aims to raise awareness on activities and practices that deteriorate water quality.
The portal uses images from Sentinel-2 and Landsat satellites validated with in-situ information that with the use of machine learning techniques and radiometric equations obtain water parameters including pH, depth, algae, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll A, organic matter and turbidity. The information is displayed in color-coded maps and time series, which facilitates analysis of water characteristics over time including minimums, maximums and averages. By adding hydrometeorological information, important conclusions can be drawn about the impact of climate on changes in water quality.
UNESCO also makes available the IHP WINS Network which has geo-referenced information related to water resources, transboundary aquifers, among others, which allows visualization and mapping. This information is used for decision-making and research.
Lastly, the UNESDOC platform was presented with a large number of publications and webinars available online. The documentation includes material related to governance in transboundary aquifers, specific studies on cyanobacteria and water quality, legal and institutional frameworks for water management in the Americas for the management of transboundary aquifers, reports on socioeconomic, environmental and climatic aspects, regional strategies and others.
It was stressed that UNESCO is open to continuing the dissemination and use of these tools by organizations and governments.
The symposium was supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Organization of American States (OAS), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), among others. From UNESCO, we would like to emphasize our commitment to support programs that seek the sustainable use of transboundary water resources, especially through the tools that the Intergovernmental Hydrological Program (IHP) makes available to the States.