The paper offers an alternative interdisciplinary approach to dealing with the complexity associated with groundwater resources, providing a new angle that integrates deep groundwater systems as defined by hydro-geologists with a paradigm shift in natural resource governance, developed by political scientists. It questions the piecemeal approach to governance of groundwater resources, coupled with the lack of acknowledgment regarding the hydraulic connection of vast deep aquifers—or a hidden sea of groundwater. Rather than relying on traditional approaches to groundwater governance, which treat the resource like a mineral resource underlying the boundaries of a sovereign nation, the “post-sovereignty” and “multi-level” governance model proposed here for groundwater resources acknowledges that groundwater is hydraulically connected to the ocean and is equally complex with respect to predictive modeling. Existing legal instruments associated with the ocean that fall under the global “contract” of the UNCLOS, together with ongoing efforts to develop a legal instrument for transboundary aquifers, offer useful lessons. The paper concludes that a “world water contract” or Law of the Hidden Sea could be adapted to incorporate groundwater as a global common, deep aquifers that are not in direct hydraulic connection with surface water resources and that are part of the developing common heritage of mankind.
Research Article|October 01 2009
Groundwater governance and the Law of the Hidden Sea