SPRING : Managing groundwater sustainably

SPRING : Managing groundwater sustainably

SPRING : Managing groundwater sustainably


Author(s):      Smith, Mark, ed. ; Cross, Katharine, ed. ; Paden, Mary, ed.; Laban, Peter, ed.; IUCN, Water and Nature Initiative

Screen Shot 2020-11-18 at 2.42.40 PM.pngThe total volume of fresh groundwater stored on Earth is between 8 and 10 million km3, or 96% of
non-frozen freshwater. Groundwater provides almost 50% of all drinking water worldwide and 43%
of all consumptive use of water for irrigation in agriculture. Changes in groundwater availability and
quality impact human health, livelihoods, food security and national economic development. Many
aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity depend on groundwater. Failure to manage groundwater
sustainably puts at risk massive benefits for human well-being, sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

Exploitation of many globally significant aquifers is not sustainable
Global abstraction of groundwater has at least tripled over the last 50 years. Groundwater levels have
declined significantly in major aquifers, reducing stream flows and causing the degradation of riparian and wetland ecosystems. The long-term viability of irrigation-based economies in these regions is
threatened, creating long-term risks for global food security. Over-exploitation of groundwater and
contamination threatens drinking water supply for hundreds of millions of people. Degradation of
groundwater reduces resilience of communities and economies to climate change.

Sustainable groundwater management supports biodiversity conservation

Changes to groundwater levels or the timing, quantity or quality of groundwater discharge is a driver
of biodiversity loss in groundwater-dependent ecosystems, including springs, rivers, lakes and certain
types of wetlands and forests. Conservation of these ecosystems depends on sustainable groundwater management. Ecosystem conservation also helps to sustain groundwater recharge. Groundwater
management and ecosystem management work together to underpin the continuing availability of
groundwater and of benefits from groundwater-dependent ecosystems.

Sustainable and climate resilient development must address groundwater management

Sustainable groundwater management supports climate-resilient supplies of water to help meet goals
for food security, energy development and access to drinking water. It supplies water for sustainable
cities and for industrialisation.

Achieving sustainable groundwater management demands coordination with surface water management for conjunctive use and that local groundwater users, technical
specialists and policy makers work together. Each has a role to play, whether at local, basin, national or
international levels, to implement multi-actor, collaborative and participatory strategies for catalysing sustainable management of groundwater.