Coupling Sustainable Sanitation and Groundwater Protection
October 14 - 17, 2008
From 14-17 October 2008, the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) convened the international symposium on “Coupling Sustainable Sanitation and Groundwater Protection” in Hannover, Germany, in order to highlight the immense problems of groundwater pollution due to absent or inadequate sanitation facilities in developing countries. Together with international co-convenors (BMZ, UNEP and WHO) and supporting organizations (BORDA, DED, DWA, GTZ, IAH, KfW and TTZ), BGR offered this symposium as the first event dealing with both topics. About 130 participants from more than 30 countries discussed the links between sustainable sanitation and groundwater protection. A comprehensive poster exhibition covered a vast variety of lessons learnt, mainly from developing countries. The symposium was one of the activities of BGR realized within the framework of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.
The chosen theme reflects the fact that the 2.5 billion people worldwide without access to improved sanitation pose an increasing threat to both surface and groundwater resources. Groundwater represents not only a water source utilised by a growing number of urban dwellers, but also a resource people in arid areas completely depend upon, as well as being the most precious freshwater resource readily available to mankind. However, groundwater utilisation for drinking water is endangered because of the uncontrolled disposal of human excreta in informal settlements and the absence of sustainable sanitation concepts in exploding mega cities and their peri-urban surroundings. Therefore timely and effective protection of groundwater is of essential importance for keeping this precious resource clean and safe for future generations. Evidently, only sustainable sanitation can enhance the long-term protection of groundwater.