Legal and institutional aspects of the Guaraní Aquifer System in the Argentine Republic

Legal and institutional aspects of the Guaraní Aquifer System in the Argentine Republic

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By Virginia María Chiesa

The importance of the resource imposes a review of the institutional aspects of the Guaraní Aquifer. The implementation of a Basin Committee would facilitate a common space to initiate actions tending to implement environmental protection and sustainable development of the SAG within the Argentine Republic.

Water is for cities like blood for the human body "

Domingo F. Sarmiento


Throughout this article I will try to synthesize for information the relevant legal and institutional aspects related to environmental protection and sustainable development of the Guaraní Aquifer System (SAG) after having carried out within the SAG Project [1] a legal and institutional analysis of current water regulations regarding groundwater in the Provinces of Corrientes, Misiones, Entre Ríos, Chaco, Formosa and Santa Fe.

In our current context, fresh water appears as a scarce resource at a global level and it is envisaged that in the coming decades this vital resource will acquire increasing importance in international politics and potentially increasing strategic and economic value. One of the axes of sustainable development requires designing a water policy that reflects this concept of scarcity, ensuring the rational and equitable use of water, the protection of its quality, the conservation of its quantity and the participation of civil society not only in the decision-making but also in the search for solutions and subsequent control of water management.

In this regard, it should be noted that our country is organized under a federal regime [2] where sustainable water management requires a functional reordering of the responsibilities assumed by the different institutions as well as a profound adaptation of current legislation. Under this approach, we say that the formulation of the water policy implies the “definition of the objectives regarding the sector, setting the limits within which the water planner can move, these must be defined and the way to achieve them”, where the law is reveals as a complement to said policy, that is, as a tool for its implementation.

Legal aspects and institutions of the SAG

Currently, the legal and institutional structure related to groundwater in the six Argentine Provinces involved in the SAG, in general, is still marked by a large number and overlap of standards and organizations that manage the aforementioned resource, putting the preparation and subsequent execution of a sustainable management model applicable to SAG within the Argentine Republic. The situation described is frequently repeated throughout the territory of our country and this motivated the initiative promoted by the Undersecretariat of Water Resources, a national authority on water matters, which led to the signing of the "Federal Water Agreement" on September 17, year 2003 [3] through which the "Guiding Principles for the Water Policy of the Argentine Republic" were agreed.

These principles elaborated through the consensus instance made possible by the Federal Water Council (COHIFE) basically indicate the meaning of water for Argentines, indicate the way to use it as the engine of our sustainable development, and promote the formation of a single water authority. in each jurisdiction and emphasize the importance of taking the hydrological cycle unit as the basis of water management.

Simultaneously, the elevation of the "Federal Water Policy" and the "Guiding Principles for the Water Policy of the Argentine Republic" were agreed to the Congress of the Nation to materialize a regulation through a National Framework Law on Water Policy for the purpose of setting rules. clear and equitable that provide legal security. Likewise, the signatories assumed the commitment to make compatible and implement these principles in the policies, legislation and in the management of the waters of their respective jurisdictions in order to carry out a sustainable administration of the resource that minimizes conflicts related to water.

In relation to the legal framework of water resources, our National Constitution does not have specific provisions referring to water, its protection and management, but rather generically guarantees the right to a healthy and balanced environment for all the inhabitants of the Republic and imposes on them the duty to preserve it. In turn, the authorities have the obligation to provide for the protection of this right, the rational use of natural resources, the preservation of natural, cultural and biological diversity heritage, and environmental information and education. [4]

Regarding environmental protection, the distribution of powers is provided in art. 41 of the CN 3er. paragraph and it reads: "it corresponds to the Nation to dictate the norms that contain the minimum protection budgets, and to the Provinces, those necessary to complement them, without those altering the local jurisdictions."

In the framework of the above, the majority doctrine understands that the water law is part of the environmental law since it is generally identified by all the natural resources that man uses.

Despite the recent enactment of Law No. 25,688 / 02 on minimum budgets on environmental water management, it does not set national objectives, nor the goals and ways of achieving them, nor does it define the limits within which it should move the water planner. For its part, the "Guiding Principles for the Water Policy of the Argentine Republic" have not yet been standardized, however it is worth mentioning that they constitute a kind of soft law accepted in most jurisdictions and we emphasize that our legal system The legal system lacks a federal water law, a necessary tool to guarantee efficient management of interjurisdictional water resources in our country.

Consequently, it seems appropriate to highlight as relevant points to take into account with a view to environmental protection and sustainable development of the SAG within the Argentine Republic:

1) The creation of a single water authority in the Provinces of Santa Fe, Formosa, Misiones and Entre Ríos that centralizes the actions of the water sector in a single conduction. Said authority must have sufficient institutional and financial autarky to guarantee adequate fulfillment of its functions, and must also be the enforcement authority for water legislation and have the necessary police power for its effective application. Notwithstanding what has been said, a trend towards the constitution and consolidation of a single water authority in the aforementioned jurisdictions can be seen at the institutional level.

2) The creation of a Basin Committee made up of all the Argentine Provinces that are involved in the SAG in order to harmonize and adopt common guidelines regarding:

  • Environmental planning of the territory.
  • Control system on the development of anthropic activities.
  • Formal and non-formal environmental education
  • Economic regime for the promotion of sustainable development.
  • Technical Standards for the construction of deep wells.
  • Systems for the evacuation of residual thermal resources.


In our country, the dominant characteristic at the institutional level continues to be the fragmented management of water resources and the sectoral management of numerous national, provincial and municipal organizations, for this reason, the implementation of a Basin Committee would facilitate a common space to initiate actions aimed at implementing environmental protection and sustainable development of the SAG within the Argentine Republic. In this regard, within COHIFE there are regional groups such as COHILI (Corrientes, Entre Ríos and Santa Fe) and COHINEA (Misiones, Chaco and Formosa) that could provide the necessary institutional support for the creation of the aforementioned Committee.

Finally, it is important to remember that according to our current legislation, a sustainable management of groundwater should be developed taking into consideration the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the water sector, where the principles of prevention, responsibility, sustainability and intergenerational equity [5] should constitute the pillars of the aforementioned administration and thus be able to achieve that productive activities satisfy present needs without compromising those of future generations as required by art. 41, 1st. paragraph of our National Constitution.

* Virginia Maria Chiesa She is a Lawyer, graduated from the Law School of the National University of Rosario, Rep. Argentina. Master's Degree in Human Environmental Systems, C.E.I. - (A R.). Assigned to the subject "Agrarian and Environmental Law", Chair "B" (U.N.R - studying 3rd year). Author of the book: “Mercosur. A new challenge for humanity: the water crisis ”, UNR Editora, foreword: Dr. Luis Orlando Andorno and other articles on water resources published in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Chile, Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, United States, Spain, France, Switzerland, Sweden and Belgium. See texts in:


[1] Project for the Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development of the Guaraní Aquifer System,

[2] By virtue of which various levels of government coexist: the Nation, the Provinces, the Municipalities and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, art. 1 and 129 of the Magna Carta.

[3] Signed by the Provinces of Santa Fe, Chaco, Formosa, Misiones, Corrientes and Entre Ríos, among others, the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires and the Nation.

[4] Article 41 of the CN.

[5] Article 4 of Law No. 25.675 / 02.

Video: The Guarani Aquifer (May 2022).