“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful feature.  It is the earth’s eye;

 looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”

                                                                                                             ……Henry David Thoreau


 Lakes emerged as a major topic within the activities of the Sustainable Water Future Programme (Water Future) with the launching of its Global Lake Assessment Programme (GLAP) on 15 October 2019 at a Water Future Side Event at the Budapest Water Summit.  Prof. Andras Szöllösi-Nagy, Chair of the Water Future Planning Committee opened the SWF Side Event, titled “What Science Can Do to Prevent the Water Crises and Shape Sustainable Water Future,” with an initial overview of the Bangaluru Science Action Plan towards Sustainable Water Futures held recently in  India.  The SWF Side Event then received keynote presentations by Prof. Charles Vöröosmarty (USA) and Ravi Narayanan (India), focusing on specific Bangaluru outcomes, followed by a subsequent panel discussion comprising a range of experts regarding these water issues and futures.


Prof. Walter Rast, Chair of the Scientific Committee of the International Lake Environment Committee (ILEC), headquartered on the shores of Lake Biwa in Japan, subsequently introduced the Global Lakes Assessment Programme (GLAP), identifying its objectives and highlighting its anticipated activities and outputs.  Noting that less than one percent of the freshwater on the surface of our planet is in liquid form, therefore being readily accessible, it also was emphasized that more than 90 percent of this freshwater component exists in lakes, reservoirs, wetlands and other lentic (standing, pooled) water systems.  Also highlighted were the unique characteristics of lakes and reservoirs, compared to flowing rivers and streams, including their integrating nature (everything comes together in a lake, meaning the problems are largely inseparable), long water residence time (problems are incremental, taking a long time to develop, remaining a long time, and solutions can take a long time), and complex dynamics (everything affects everything else in a lake, often making in-lake problems unpredictable and uncontrollable).  Being storage bodies for large quantities of water, their role in providing a mitigation function for ameliorating the negative impacts of predicted changes in the global hydrologic cycle as a result of global climate change, including freshwater shortages (droughts) and excesses (floods), also was identified. These unique characteristics of lakes require new assessment and management approaches not adequately stipulated in current globally-promoted management approaches such as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM).  To this end, infusing Integrated Lake Basin Management (ILBM) for sustainable management of lakes and reservoirs within the context of IWRM, through gradual, continuous and holistic improvement of basin governance, including sustained efforts for integration of institutional responsibilities, policy directions, stakeholder participation, scientific and traditional knowledge, technological possibilities, and funding constraints, was suggested as a means of addressing the complex assessment and management challenges facing lakes and reservoirs.

Current GLAP objectives include the following:

  • Highlighting unique characteristics of lakes and reservoirs and their specific consideration in developing effective assessment and management programmes;
  • Assessing the role of lakes and reservoirs in providing life-supporting ecosystem services, maintaining aquatic ecosystems, mitigating water-related natural disasters, and facilitating achievement of the Sustainable Development (SDG) goals;
  • Identifying and analyzing major drivers of lake degradation, focusing on waterbodies already extensively studied, as well as supplement data and information from governments, international and academic organizations, scientific and water policy literature, NGOs, lake communities and other relevant sources;
  • Reviewing policy options currently being used around the world, with a focus on analysis of their successes and failures, including reasons for identified policy failures;
  • Assessing the significant role of Integrated Lake Basin Management (ILBM) for addressing the drivers of lake degradation, as a complement to IWRM;
  • Addressing the serious lack of uniform, global-scale lake data and information that hinder the accurate assessment and effective management of lakes, their resources and their basins;
  • Identifying long-term needs for the conservation of lakes, and facilitation of their life-supporting ecosystem services, with special on mainstreaming lakes into the global water arena.

Although the anticipated partners and collaborators will likely further evolve during the course of the GLAP and its need for specific data, information and expertise, they currently include, among others, International Lake Environment Committee (ILEC), Institute of Advanced Studies (iASK), UN World Water Assessment Programme (UN-WWAP), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), UNESCO, UNEP, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Balaton Limnological Society, Living Lakes, and International Institute for Sustainable Water Resources.

In view of the range of complex issues to be identified and analyzed, and the large quantity of needed data and information, an estimated timeframe of three to five years is envisioned to achieve the GLAP goals.