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UNECE Launches Second Assessment of Transboundary Waters in Wider Europe

UNECE21 September 2011: The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has released the "Second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters," which underlines that the status of transboundary waters is improving in many parts of the UNECE region thanks to the efforts to protect waters and the environment.  

The Asssessment was released at the Seventh “Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference” being held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 21-23 September 2011. It cautions that transboundary water resources are still under great stress from a variety of causes, including: poor management practices; pollution, such as agriculture or wastewater discharges; over-exploitation; unsustainable production and consumption patterns; hydromorphological pressures; inadequate investment in infrastructure; and low efficiency in water use.

The Assessment presents a broad analysis of transboundary water resources, pressure factors, quantity and quality status, and transboundary impacts, as well as management responses and future trends. It emphasizes that: competition and even conflicts between different water uses, often in different riparian countries, are a challenge that is expected to be exacerbated by climate change impacts; in many basins, potential impacts of climate change on water resources have not been specifically assessed; and more comprehensive and collaborative research into the impacts of climate change at the subregional and basin level is needed. The consequences include altered and degraded ecosystems, sedimentation and blocked fish migration. In some basins, measures such as building fish ladders have been taken, with more efforts and investments being needed to reinstate natural conditions.

The Second Assessment covers over 140 transboundary rivers, 25 transboundary lakes, about 200 transboundary groundwaters, and 25 sites designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) and other wetlands of transboundary importance. It concludes that, through the pan-European region, stronger water and environmental governance, sound land management policies, and integration of sectoral policies are needed, including in the EU. [UNECE Press Release]