Groundwater Task Force

The Groundwater Task Force leads IWRA’s efforts to connect groundwater science, policy, and practice interface.

Why Focus on Groundwater?

Groundwater is a vitally important resource, yet until recently, it has not held much prominence in social, governance, and policy arenas. Shifts in patterns of use and growth in human demands for water, climate change, transformation of economic structures, and other stressors have increased pressures upon this resource. In many locations around the world, rates of withdrawal now often exceed rates of recharge, leading to long-term declines in groundwater levels.Groundwater depletion can result in land subsidence, reduction in groundwater storage, contamination, saltwater intrusion, and impacts on connected surface water supplies. To ensure water security, as well as to prevent irreversible impacts on groundwater aquifers and symbiotic ecosystems, there is an urgent need to act at local, regional, and global scales.

The complexity of groundwater affects its sustainable management and use. Knowledge of a groundwater system requires substantial measuring and analysis not only of the groundwater system but of interconnected surface waters, land, and climatic conditions. Flows vary due to natural variability and there can be a time lag between actions and the effects of those actions. The dispersed nature of groundwater use; the relatively new development of policy and law governing human actions that influence groundwater systems; and the need to navigate politics, socio-economic, and cultural contexts further contribute to the challenge of achieving groundwater sustainability.

IWRA is uniquely positioned to contribute to bridging the groundwater science-policy-practiceinterface. The Association’s network of members spans the full range of disciplines and expertise necessary both to understand and to address groundwater challenges. IWRA members possess unparalleled knowledge of the institutional, economic, legal, physical, ecological, and chemical aspects of groundwater. In addition, the extensive place-based knowledge that stems from global membership provides the Groundwater Task Force the potential to provide insights, synthesis and lessons applicable to guide scientists, policy-makers and practitioners around the world in navigating the science-policy-practice interface.

The IWRA Groundwater Task Force

Following IWRA’s highly successful 2020 Online Conference on Addressing Groundwater Resilience under Climate Change’, IWRA established the Groundwater Task Force to help guide the Association’s groundwater-related efforts.

The Groundwater Task Force focuses on building capacity and knowledge in relation to the groundwater science-policy-practice interface. Related activities will be directed to raising awareness; generating and disseminating knowledge, best practices, and examples of successful utilisation; and bringing together scientists, practitioners, policymakers, and other interested parties to deliberate and share insights. In this vein, the Task Force will work to incorporate consideration of groundwater throughout IWRA’s activities and agendas, will direct IWRA’s activities in support of UN Water’s 2022 thematic focus on groundwater, and will support linking groundwater to other regional, international and global agendas, including Agenda 2030 and the SDG 6 accelerator.  

Specific themes will include:

  • Pathways to success in groundwater governance and management
  • Defining, measuring, and evaluating groundwater sustainability
  • Integrated and conjunctive groundwater management, including surface-groundwater interactions and land-water interactions
  • Innovations in integrating interdisciplinary science, policy, and practice

Introducing the Task Force Bureau

IWRA has convened a panel of experts from among its membership to help guide and grow the task force.

Alice Aureli has over 30 years of experience in groundwater resources management and governance. In addition to her many years of research and teaching, she is the Chief of the UNESCO’s Groundwater Systems and Water for Human Settlements Section. As member of the Secretariat of the UNESCO’s intergovernmental International Hydrological Programme (IHP) she is responsible for, amongst others, the International Shared Aquifers Resources Management (ISARM) initiative. This role has led her to supervise the work of the UNESCO’s expert team that supported the UN International Law Commission in the preparation of the Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers. An important aspect of her work has been on scientific and policy-related issues surrounding groundwater governance. Recipient of several international awards she continues to lecture regularly on a variety of postgraduate courses and coordinate masters studies and PhD in the field of transboundary waters, hydrogeology and groundwater resources management. Aureli is the author of a large number of publications and served as editor of various international journals.   

Michael Campana is Professor of Hydrogeology and Water Resources Management at Oregon State University (OSU) and Technical Director of AWRA (President, 2011) and the Editor-in-Chief of Water Resources IMPACT. He formerly directed the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico (UNM) where he was the Black Professor of Hydrogeology. Prior to UNM he was at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and taught/advised students at the University of Nevada-Reno (UNR). Interests and expertise include hydrogeology; hydrophilanthropy; IWRM; WaSH; and the science/policy interface. He founded the Ann Campana Judge Foundation that works in Central America. In NGWA he chaired the S&E Division and was Vice-President. He is on the BoD of Hydrogeologists without Borders. He served six years on the Global Water Partnership’s Steering Committee. Current research focuses on using Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) to capture excess snowmelt/streamflow. Campana has worked in the South Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Central and South America, Mexico, Europe, and Egypt. He received a BS (Geology; 1970) at the College of William & Mary and MS (Hydrology; 1973) and PhD (Hydrology (major); mathematics (minor); 1975) degrees from the University of Arizona. As WaterWired he blogs and Tweets (@WaterWired) on water and related issues. He is a fellow of IWRA. 

Gabriel Eckstein is Professor of Law at Texas A&M University and Director of the law school’s Program in Natural Resources Systems. He focuses his research and teaching on water, natural resources, and environmental law and policy issues at the local, national, and international levels. He regularly advises UN agencies, national and sub-national governments, non-governmental organizations, and other groups on international and US water and environmental issues. He also directs the consultancy International H2O Solutions, as well as the non-profit International Water Law Project. From 2010-2015, Professor Eckstein served as Treasurer of IWRA; in 2017, he chaired the XVI World Water Congress International Scientific Committee. Professor Eckstein also serves as Associate Editor for Brill Research Perspectives: International Water Law, and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Water Law. He holds a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in International Environmental Law, an M.S. in International Affairs, and a B.A. in Geology.

Eric Garner practices water rights and supply law as the Managing Partner at Best Best & Krieger LLP. He works on surface water and groundwater issues and for the past three decades has worked extensively on groundwater matters. He was involved in drafting California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and testified before the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Water on adjudication reform legislation. He has drafted water laws in South Africa, Trinidad and Pakistan and worked with the United Nations Environmental Programme on incorporating environmental issues into water laws, the World Bank on groundwater issues in the Middle East and North Africa and was the first American Chair of the International Bar Association’s Water Law Committee. Eric co-authored three editions of “California Water,” and is an adjunct law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. He was also named a California Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer magazine, twice has been chosen one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California by the Daily Journal, and he received a national Environmental Law MVP award from Law360

Rasha Hassan recently joined the Ph.D. program at the University of Barcelona to research drought in the Mediterranean Basin with main focus on Syria and Spain. This position is the result of extensive efforts in academia. Rasha has a BSc in civil engineering and a MSc in environmental systems engineering from Tishreen University, Syria. Her master thesis about groundwater management was a milestone in her career and the entrance to the water sector. Then, she joined the Water and Coastal Management, Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Program at the University of Bologna.  Furthermore, she worked for five years as an environmental engineer in the governmental sector in Syria. She is a member of several volunteering groups in the water and climate sectors.   

Yuanyuan Li is Vice-President and Professor of the General Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Planning and Design (GIWP) at the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) of China. His fields of expertise include water resources management mechanisms, interactions between human activities and water resources, water resources system analysis and planning, and water ecology and environment protection. He has led many water resources surveys at a national level, strategy studies, comprehensive water resources planning, major water projects technological demonstration, water policies formulation and management activities as well as international programmes and cooperation. His research results have been awarded numerous science and technology awards. He is currently the Vice-President of International Water Resources Association (IWRA). 

Raya Marina Stephan is an expert in water law, and an international consultant in water related projects with international organizations. She has a wide experience in the design and execution of international projects related to legal and institutional aspects of water management, and transboundary waters. She was involved in the experts advisory group of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Program to the Special Rapporteur of the UN International Law Commission for the preparation of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers. She has also advised on the application of international water law for the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the Arab League. She was a member of the Publications Committee of the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) (2010-2012), and she chaired it and served on the Executive Board from 2013-2015. Stephan is the author of numerous publications related to water law and international water law. She is also the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Water International. 

Renée Martin-Nagle is President and CEO of A Ripple Effect pllc, Special Counsel at Eckert Seamans, and a Visiting Scholar at the Environmental Law Institute. She received her PhD in 2019 from the University of Strathclyde, and her doctoral thesis, “Governance of Offshore Freshwater Resources”, was published by Brill Nijhoff in January 2020.  For more than twenty years prior to joining the water community, she was the chief legal counsel for Airbus Americas, retiring in 2011 as General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, Head of Environmental Affairs, Corporate Secretary and a member of the Board of Directors. Renee earned an LL.M from George Washington University Law School (with highest honors), a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from St. Francis University and an Associate of Arts from Mount Aloysius College. Her LL.M. thesis, “Fossil Aquifers: A Common Heritage of Mankind”, won the 2011 Jamie Grodsky Prize for Environmental Law Scholarship. 

Muchaneta Munamati is the Project Coordinator at UNESCO Regional Office of Southern Africa – Harare, Zimbabwe. She coordinates a groundwater project entitled ‘Governance of Groundwater Resources in Transboundary Aquifers’ (GGRETA) in Southern Africa. GGRETA project seeks to strengthen regional stability, cooperation and peace through the establishment of cooperative frameworks for transboundary groundwater governance in River Basin Organizations (RBOs), Regional Commissions (RCs) and selected aquifers systems in Africa, Central America and Central Asia. Muchaneta was also instrumental in the development of a groundwater project funded by Adaptation Fund. The USD 5million project whose title is Strengthening local communities’ adaptive capacities and resilience to climate change through sustainable groundwater utilisation in Zimbabwe’ is aimed at increasing local communities’ adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change through sustainable groundwater utilisation for food security and other productive uses in rural areas of Zimbabwe. Muchaneta has over 10 years experience in water research and coordinating water-related projects. She is a holder of a Masters degree in Integrated Water Resources Management and a PhD in Water and Sanitation both from the University of Zimbabwe.

Geert-Jan Nijsten is senior advisor in (ground)water management for Deltares institute for applied research on water and subsurface. His academic background is in hydrogeology, and his early professional experience is in technical research and consultancy in groundwater exploration, development and management in Africa and the Netherlands. In addition to the technical aspects of hydrogeology, Geert-Jan developed a keen interest the policy aspects of groundwater management and governance and the importance of multi-disciplinary approaches. This led him to work for nearly a decade as a policy advisor and program manager in policy implementation for a regional government in the Netherlands. From 2012 to 2019 he worked at the International Groundwater Centre – IGRAC on international groundwater projects with a focus  on  data and information management, transboundary  groundwater, groundwater governance and  high  level groundwater advocacy. Geert-Jan’s special interest is in bringing together the worlds of technical hydrogeology with other disciplines and policy aspects to provide practical solutions to real life problems related to  water security and sustainability. 

Tibor Stigter is a Sr. Lecturer in Hydrogeology and Groundwater Resources at IHE Delft. His main areas of expertise are: i) groundwater sustainability and vulnerability assessment, under influence of climate variability and climate change; ii) use of hydrogeochemical, multivariate and geostatistical tools to assess groundwater-surface water-wetland interactions and contamination induced by agricultural practices. He is the coordinator of the Erasmus+ Mundus Joint Master Programme in Groundwater and Global Change – Impacts and Adaptation that he set up with European Funding. In addition, he is coordinator and lecturer of the yearly module and short course in Groundwater Data Collection and Interpretation. Stigter obtained an MSc degree in Physical Geography/Geographical Hydrology in 1997 at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and a PhD degree in Engineering Sciences (2005) from Instituto Superior Tecnico– Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa (IST-UTL). 

Fengyue Sun is an engineer and a liaison officer for international cooperation affairs working at the General Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Planning and Design of the Ministry of Water Resources of China, and she is also working for International Water Resources Association (IWRA) China Chapter. She has widely engaged in academic exchanges and foreign affairs in international water resources projects and programmesFengyue holds a BSc in Environmental Science from University of Nottingham (UK) and an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London. After graduation, she did an internship in the position of project management and outreach support at the United Nations Environment Programme Beijing Office. 

Karen G. Villholth is Principal Researcher at International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Southern Africa – Pretoria, South Africa. She heads up the Groundwater Program at IWMI and coordinates the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP), a global partnership of 30 international organizations supporting sustainable development, use and management of groundwater. She has more than 25 years’ experience in water research and management. Her portfolio embraces significant interdisciplinary roles and partnerships, with the primary aim of making groundwater sustainable. The vehicle is through co-producing, ‘translating’ and disseminating science relevant, applicable and useful for decision makers, primarily in developing countries. Examples of partners from GRIPP and beyond include the African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW) supporting their Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP); UNESCO and the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) Commission on Transboundary Aquifers on the ISARM 2021 Conference; UNESCO and IAH Commission on Managed Aquifer Recharge on the flagship report: Managing Aquifer Recharge –  

A Showcase for Resilience and Sustainability; the Sustainable Water Future Program under Future Earth; Friends of Groundwater under UNEP’s World Water Quality Assessment Program; the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) and their Groundwater Task Force Bureau, the Working Group on Groundwater Protection under the SuSanA Network on Sanitation; the Advisory Committee for the Groundwater Project; the Expert Group under FAO on Environmental Flows supporting SDG 6.4.2; the Expert Group under UNECE on the Handbook on Water Allocation in a Transboundary Context; the Global Groundwater Sustainability Statement and Call to Action; the UN-Water Task Force on Unconventional Water Resources under UNU-INWEH; the African Groundwater-Network; and the Rural Water Supply Network. She is Associate Editor of Hydrogeology Journal and of Water and Human Health, a specialty section within Frontiers in Water. 


Lili Yu is Professor Level Senior Engineer in GIWP at the MWR, China. She has a PhD in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Florida (US). Her fields of expertise include groundwater planning, groundwater assessment and strategic studies. As the technical director or project leader, she has completed a number of national and regional level projects, including national groundwater utilization and protection planning, national groundwater resources assessment, groundwater management regulation-related standards at national level, etc. She is an active participant in the international water resources community, serving as a committee member of International Water Resources Association (IWRA).  


The Task Force will form working groups drawn from IWRA membership to produce concept notes, academic research, policy briefs and webinars related to key groundwater topics. It will also help to coordinate and support IWRA’s presence in international events.  

Initial activities of the Task Force included:

    • A webinar series on groundwater success stories
    • Contributions to the 2022 World Water Development Report
    • A ‘next-generation’ groundwater series aimed interdisciplinary capacity building
    • Support for UN Water’s Groundwater Summit in 2022
    • Planning events and activities for World Water Day 2022

To Participate

All IWRA members are welcome to contribute to the groundwater task force efforts.  IWRA members are encouraged to get in touch with IWRA’s Executive Office at office@iwra.org to indicate your areas of interest, provide ideas for task force activities, or to communicate key messages that IWRA should pursue with regards to groundwater.


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