Culture and nature
Water is a limited and increasingly scarce resource. The availability and quality of water is currently changing dramatically due to population growth, changing consumption patterns and climate change. Many regions experience stronger and more frequent droughts, while elsewhere increasing precipitation will result in floods. Pollutants and excessive fertilizers and pesticides pollute water bodies.
New concepts for the sustainable management of water resources are available but need to be adapted and applied locally. Research is needed to detect and assess groundwater resources, to reconcile the needs of agriculture, drinking water and ecosystems. All countries therefore need high-quality water research and water management. What is needed are comparable measurement standards, long-term measurement series and, in many countries, the first-time infrastructure development and training of personnel. Special requirements are made by transboundary rivers and groundwater resources. UNESCO therefore supports cooperation between governments, their water authorities and science.
IHP and the German Category 2 Center
Since 1975, the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) supports UNESCO Member States in these research-related questions and links them with each other. It translates research results into policy, applies them and promotes training in water research and management. The IHP works as an intergovernmental and interdisciplinary programmes with relevant sub-programms.
Germany’s main contribution to the IHP is the “International Center for Water Resources and Global Change” (http://www.waterandchange.org) at the Federal Institute of Hydrology in Koblenz (since 2014, category 2). The Center is fully integrated with the German IHP National Committee, which includes representatives of federal and state authorities, associations, research institutes, universities and the German Commission for UNESCO. The German National Committee has gained worldwide recognition since its founding in 1974 with many significant contributions, such as innovative research, training seminars or the provision of global databases.
The Koblenz Category 2 Center investigates the effects of global change on the availability and quality of water. Key work areas include risk assessment, water diplomacy and river data exchange and analysis (UNESCO IHP FRIEND and Rhine Co-operation). At the same time, experts from all over the world are trained and educated. Since 2007, the Koblenz Center has been organizing a two-week summer school together with the University of Bochum. The Koblenz center operates the global water quality database GEMStat, which comprises more than 300 parameters at more than 3000 stations with a total of more than 3 million readings (see www.gemstat.org). It works closely with the "Global Runoff Data Center", also in Koblenz, which collects more than 9,500 river levels in 160 countries daily or monthly data; and the Global Precipitation Climatology Center, which collects precipitation at approximately 7,000 sites worldwide. The Koblenz center compiles this data in new products for a global hydrological data information system.
UNESCO’s Worldwide Hydrogeological Mapping and Assessment Program (WHYMAP), in turn, aggregates all available data on groundwater resources and produces global maps on the basis. A longtime partner of UNESCO in WHYMAP is the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) in Hanover. Also of the 50 UNESCO Chairs in Water is in Germany, the UNESCO Chair for Hydrological Change and Water Resource Management at RWTH Aachen University.
World Water Development Report
UNESCO coordinates the preparation of the annual World Water Development Report for the United Nations. The World Water Assessment Program (WWAP) compiles the report on behalf of the 32 members of the United Nations Coordinating Mechanism UNWater. The German Commission for UNESCO has published most of the recent Executive Summaries of the Report in German language.
In 2018, WWAP also coordinated for UNWater the "Synthesis Report" on Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda (SDG6) to the United Nations and its High Level Political Forum (HLPF).
Contributions of the German Commission for UNESCO
- Since 2008, together with Danone Waters, the German Commission for UNESCO has been funding water conservation measures in German biosphere reserves.
- In 2013 and 2017, the German UNESCO Commission prepared a traveling exhibition on Germany's international cooperation on water issues. Under www.wasser-kooperation.de essential contents of the exhibition are available.
- In 2014, the German UNESCO Commission organized the first joint meeting of all UNESCO water centers.
- In 2009, the German Commission for UNESCO organized three training courses in Cairo for decision-makers from more than 30 ministries in the Middle East and North Africa.