Web-based information for integrated water resources management of a multi-national aquifer: The Global Environment Facility Project on the Guaraní Aquifer Eduardo Usunoff Instituto de Hidrología de Llanuras C.C. 44 (7300) Azul – Prov. Buenos Aires – Argentina Phone/Fax: (54) (2281) 432-666 E-mail: email@example.com Introductory remarks Given the global scarcity of water resources readily available, the Guaraní Aquifer s represents one of the world’ largest freshwater underground reservoirs. Shared by four countries (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay) its known extent is of about 1.200.000 km2 (Figure 1), of which 70% are in Brazil, 19% in Argentina, 6% in Paraguay, and 5% in Uruguay. During the last 20 years, the amount of water pumped from the aquifer has been increased steadily in response to demands from various sources (direct water supply, industrial settlements, tourism-related needs, agricultural activities), which does raise concerns on the proper (equitable) current use of the water and the sustainability of the system in the context of integrated water resources management. It is important to mention that more than 15.000.000 people live in the area, that the largest South-American industrial cluster is nearby (San Pablo, Brazil), and that the best trained technical resources of the four countries are in the region or around it. The aquifer is in Permian-Cretacic sandstones, covered on at least 90% of its extent by Jurasic-Cretacic basalts of varying degrees of fracturing/fissuring. Such sandstones range in thickness from few meters to more than 800 meters (in Río Grande Do Sul, Brazil). It is basically a confined aquifer, and its main source of recharge is infiltrating rainfall in those places where the basaltic cover is not present. The groundwater flow is from the North-East to the South-West, with waters which incorporate solutes along the flow direction. The average salinity in the recharge area is about 50 mg/l, and can be as much as 500 mg/l on the South-Western region. The general flow direction matches an increase in groundwater temperatures, from 22 to up to 60 ºC, which has been mostly attributed to the effect of the normal geothermal gradient. Because of its extent, importance, and transnational setting, the Guaraní Aquifer has been the subject of numerous hydrological studies (a very good summary can be found in Campos, 2000), whose conclusions/findings can hardly be integrated due to the varying degree of detail and the scale incidentally used. Several attempts were made to come up with a unique, justified conceptual model of the aquifer, although such trials were not as successful as expected because it soon became evident that basic information was either unavailable or lacking. The shortcomings and limitations posed by the lack of reliable information and/or its uneven geographical distribution were assessed through groundwater modeling of a large portion of the aquifer (Figure 2, 80° 60° 40° 10° 10° 10° Mato Grosso 10° Goiás Minas Gerais Mato Grosso do Sul Sao Paulo Paraná MI Sta. Catarina CO Rio Grande do Sul ER 30° 30° 500 km 100° 80° 60° 40° Figure 1. Location of the Guaraní Aquifer in South America. Vives et al., 2000), although such a exploratory tool helped define the future steps to gain a much refined insight on the aquifer behavior. -1800000 BRASIL BOLIVIA -2100000 -2400000 PARAGUAY -2700000 -3000000 ARGENTINA -3300000 -3600000 metros URUGUAY 0 200000 400000 600000 -1000000 -800000 -600000 -400000 -200000 0 200000 400000 600000 800000 1000000 Figure 2. 2-D fine-elements grid of the modeled area (after Vives et al., 2000). Counting on technical and financial support provided by UNESCO, the IHP (International Hydrological Program) National Committees of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay prepared a project to unravel the hydrogeological potential of the Guaraní Aquifer and submitted it to the World Bank in 1994 (details of the baseline information used can be inspected in http://www.unesco.org.uy/phi/hicos.html). Indeed, it took a long time and countless efforts to come up with the four national hydrogeological maps, which were soon after included in a larger and much needed map showing and explaining the hydrogeological features of the whole South America (UNESCO/CPRM/DNMP, 1996). Such a map and the explanations can be downloaded from http://www.unesco.org.uy/phi/mapahid.pdf. More recently, the four countries in the region decided to take on effective actions on the subject and, along with Universities and NGOs, agreed on launching a project aimed at the preservation and sustainable management of the Guaraní Aquifer. Because of its transnational nature, such a task is currently in charge of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Born in 1991 as an experimental task group, the GEF mission and structure emerged clearly after the 1992 Earth Summit held in Río de Janeiro, Brazil (additional data can be found in http://www.gefweb.org). The GEF has already assigned U$A 350.000 (granted by the World Bank) to the project formulation, and expects to receive future investments in the order of U$A 25.000.000 for carrying it out. The early stages of the GEF project and other related information is already in Internet (http://www.aquiferoguarani.com), and this presentation aims at putting up some ideas that will greatly enhance its scope as related to the objectives laid out by the GEF. Integrated water resources management and sustainability In order to understand what is at stake, a brief definition of integrated water resources management (IWRM) is in order. García (1998) considered that it involves projects and actions aimed at increasing water conservation and water use efficiency. To achieve such objectives, water managers should bear in mind that: (1) water resources are to be used in a complementary way, (2) competing uses, in quality and quantity, lead to conflicts which are to be minimized, (3) demand-oriented management is as important as supply-oriented management, (4) clear and fear policies and regulations must be available, as well as (5) well-trained human resources. Although it is not explicitly mentioned in the paragraph above, sustainability is at the heart of the IWRM. As related to water resources, there is no commonly accepted definition of sustainability. However, it seems that current trends coincide with the conceptual approach proposed by ASCE (1998, p. 44): “Sustainable water resource systems are those designed and managed to fully contribute to the objectives of society, now and in the future, while maintaining their ecological, environmental, and hydrological integrity”. While it becomes increasingly difficult to estimate what future needs or demands will be, it seems evident that whatever is done today to meet current needs, society should not allow renewable water systems to be degraded. In doing so, even though it may be impossible to know what new objectives future generations will want to try to achieve, the initial assumption is that their objectives will be the same as those of the current generation. An approach to the desirable Web-based information Given the extent of the aquifer, the current and potential uses of the water, the existing laws and international treaties, and even the cultural and economical differences among the four countries, it can be easily concluded that, while a Web page is a powerful tool for most purposes, its features and contents have to be designed very carefully. Such a hypothetical Web page should: 1) be understandable for anyone accessing it. That implies using plain written Spanish and Portuguese, devoid of many technical terms. The specialists, those who already have the ability to handle the technical jargon, should be able to read/download the technical reports or data available. 2) display information, whenever possible, in graphical form. 3) be the host of all hydrological-related information. Currently, no one is sure of what is known and what remains uncertain about the Guaraní Aquifer. Although several technical reports have been issued, there is a wealth of raw (unprocessed) data that should be put to a good use. That would substantially reduce the cost of future investigations. 4) keep updated records of on-going studies, new proposals of water use, and active policies regarding integrated water resources management. Such an updating must be supervised by a group of technicians guided by the Web page manager. 5) allow feedback from stakeholders. Experience has shown that their direct involvement leads to better solutions, particularly in conflicting situations (competitive uses). 6) offer links to federal or state laws/regulations libraries. Inasmuch as laws are lengthy texts, a search engine (based on selectable keywords) may be useful. 7) reserve a special place for NGOs. 8) Count on an on-line webmaster. Three examples will are offered below, showing how effective a Web page can be in solving real-world problems. Although the actual Web page consultation is fictitious, those cases are based on actual initiatives. Groundwater demand from tourism: An international investment company detected a well-defined demand, which implies building a health resort near San Pablo City (Brazil), making use of deep, thermal waters from the Guaraní Aquifer. If the Guaraní Aquifer Web page fulfills the requirements mentioned above, it will be a matter of few hours to retrieve information on: • Places nearby San Pablo where the resort can be built (after displaying a general location map, zooming-in capabilities would be desirable). Links to regional real estate developers would help find out details on land use/availability and costs. • Quality and quantity characteristics of the deep, heat waters. • Links to libraries of various categories dealing with the entire procedure for building a resort such the one proposed (construction norms, commercial rules, groundwater use and environmental protection laws, etc.). • E-mail addresses (regional tourism agencies, technical agencies/groups, official development agencies, etc.). • Ways to retrieve the opinion/views of local stakeholders, after filling up a form containing a brief description of the project (infrastructure, job opportunities, use of water, fate of wastewater, etc.). Groundwater supply: Groundwater pumping has been used for years to supply the city of Mercedes (Corrientes Province, Argentina). Those wells tap a rather thin unconfined aquifer, which is currently overexploited and showing evident signs of quality degradation. Decision has been made to drill deeper wells (no source of surface water is close to Mercedes), so that waters from the Guaraní Aquifer would potentially supply the city. Before starting off a drilling campaign, a session of Web page consultation would be extremely useful for: • Finding out the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the Guaraní Aquifer in the region. • Retrieving the hydrogeological/constructional features of wells nearby (lithological profiles, casing diagrams, specific discharges, transmissivities, storage coefficients, etc.). • Being aware that, by virtue of the Ramsar Treaty, since 1995 Argentina has assumed the preservation of the Iberá wetlands (fed up by the Guaraní Aquifer in that region). Therefore, any groundwater pumping is allowed as long as the wetlands recharge is not affected. • Getting in touch with researchers/professionals who may model the situation to assess the eventual impact of groundwater pumping on the wetlands hydrological regime. Hydrogeochemical research: Water samples from the Guaraní Aquifer along the eastern portion of Uruguay have shown high concentrations of fluoride. Its origin is not clear, although some studies postulated that it may be the result of waters from different aquifer horizons which get mixed through preferential pathways. A graduate student, looking for a thesis topic, decides to carry on a hydrogeochemical study. A good starting point would be to glance through the Guaraní Aquifer Web page in order to: • Inspect the chemical database. • Zoom-in on regional geological structures. • Get details on sampling wells (drilled lithology, cased and screened depths, discharge, etc.). • Find out who else may be working on the subject (links with universities). • Explore the research grants available. • Deliver a brief summary of the proposed research project. The hypothetical examples above offer just a glimpse of a much broader spectrum of capabilities of a well designed and managed Guaraní Aquifer web page. The ever growing Internet hookups in Latin America (Fernández-Jáuregui, 1999) and the remarkable advances in communication technologies (Anderson, 1999) may constitute excellent tools for the challenge of achieving the sustainable management of the Guaraní Aquifer. Recommendations Those living in the region know that, aside from financial support, the building of an efficient Guaraní Aquifer Web page entails a high sense of openness, generosity, and integration at all levels. It may take a while for it to take place, and some actions can be suggested to catalyze the process: • Nowadays, the MERCOSUR (the South American equivalent of the NAFTA) is dealing almost exclusively with economical matters. It would be desirable that the water resources and environmental national authorities induce the inclusion of the Guaraní Aquifer management in the official agenda of the MERCOSUR. • Although bilateral and multilateral treaties involving the countries in the region are in effect, most of them are not backed up by common laws or rules of multilateral validity. Therefore, promoting legislative actions to develop legal instruments for the “water resources joint ownership” concept should be of primary concern. • Data standarization and quality control, as well as the inclusion of social and economical issues (holistic, multidimensional, and multi-objective approach), are in order. Experience has shown that handling many variables of different type and source with multiple objectives can become a cumbersome task. In that sense, an expert system should be available. Incidentally, the LACHYCIS information system (Fernández-Jáuregui, 1999) does represent an advanced effort bound to be easily enriched in the near future given its potential (details on LACHYCIS can be accessed at http://www.unesco.org.uy/phi/lachycis.htm). • There is no doubt that an acceptable knowledge of the Guaraní Aquifer behavior is a pre-condition to any initiative. Substantial resources should then be assigned to the completion of the aquifer conceptual model, taking as a baseline the findings of Vives et al. (2000). Such a task should include as many hydrogeologists as possible (either as a operational human resources or data- providers), in which can be conceived as a multi-national research team, and the results be disseminated “effectively” among regional water decision-makers (who, as pointed out by Fernández-Jáuregui (1999), do favor friendly approaches due to their lack of expertise in technical grounds). • The on-going UNESCO’ TAM Program (Transboundary Aquifer Resources s Management) is tailored in such a way that the Guaraní Aquifer may well be included as a pilot case. • Special attention should be given to the way that stakeholders may benefit from the Guaraní Aquifer Web page. They should be convinced that the Internet resources are most effective in achieving common objectives. Their participation is essential in retrieving their demands and helping shape the outcomes of water management and policy actions. Then, counting on e-conferences and video conferences capabilities would be a must. References Anderson, F. 1999. The challenge of leveraging the Internet for a sustainable water management agenda: Enabling global cooperation and local initiatives. Water International, Volume 24, Number 2, pp. 126-139. ASCE. 1998. Sustainability Criteria for Water Resources Systems. American Society of Civil Engineers, UNESCO/PHI IV Project M-4.3, Reston, Virginia, 253 p. Campos, H. 2000. Mapa hidrogeológico del Acuífero Guaraní. Proceedings of the 1st. Joint World Congress on Groundwater, Fortaleza, Brasil, 15 p. (in CD format). Fernández-Jáuregui, C. 1999. Hydrology and water resources on the Web in Latin America and the Caribbean. Water International, Volume 24, Number 2, pp. 157-159. García, L. 1988. Strategy for integrated water resources management. Technical Study Nº ENV-125, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C., 36 p. UNESCO/CPRM/DNMP. 1996. Mapa hidrogeológico de América del Sur, Escala 1:5.000.000, Texto explicativo, Brasil, 210 p., 2 maps. Vives, L., Campos, H., Candela, L., and Guarracino, L. 2000. Premodelo de flujo del Acuífero Guaraní. Proceedings of the 1st. Joint World Congress on Groundwater, Fortaleza, Brasil, 19 p. (in CD format).
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