October 23, 2008

U.N. Creates First Map of World’s Aquifers

For the first time, the world's freshwater aquifers will soon be charted on a map, the United Nations announced Wednesday in New York.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's map of the world's underground water resources will be submitted to the U.N. General Assembly last week.

The UNESCO map will identify 273 aquifers shared by at least two countries, using data compiled since 2000 by its international hydrological program. It will include information about water quality and rate of replenishment.

Sixty-eight of the aquifers are on the American continent, 38 in Africa, 65 in eastern Europe, 90 in western Europe and 12 in Asia.

Underground aquifers account for 70 percent of water used in the European Union, and are often the only source of supply in arid and semi-arid areas -- 100 percent in Saudi Arabia and Malta, 95 percent in Tunisia and 75 percent in Morocco, for example.

Aquifers contain 100 times the volume of freshwater found on the Earth's surface.

UNESCO said a draft document to be presented to the General Assembly Oct. 27 is intended to facilitate the creation of arrangements for the administration transboundary aquifer systems so they are not damaged by pollution or other means.