Groundwater: an unseen, overused and unappreciated resource

Global surface water receives lion’s share of interest. In contrast, groundwater is an unseen and unappreciated resource even though it constitutes 98% of earth’s liquid freshwater. Groundwater provides 42% of global irrigation water, 36% of potable water and 24% of industrial water. Groundwater is mismanaged in both developed and developing countries. Ogallala aquifer in USA accounts for at least 20% of national annual agricultural production. Kansas, one of the six states Ogallala covers withdrew more than 7570 megalitres of water in 2022 alone. India is now extracting 230-250 km3 of groundwater annually, more than USA and China combined. During post-1960 period, number of groundwater abstraction wells in USA and India increased exponentially. All these developments have meant that from Brazil to China, and USA to Spain, groundwater levels have seen a steady decline. From USA to India, groundwater is managed by 19th-century laws and mid-20th-century water infrastructure and norms. They are completely outdated in 21st century. These practices have ensured world is now facing a groundwater management crisis which no earlier generation has ever faced.

By Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada, 2024. Article published in International Journal of Water Resources Development, Volume 40, Number 1, pages 1-6. DOI: 10.1080/07900627.2024.2292448

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