Better management of groundwater resources urged

10 Apr 15

The increase in groundwater extraction needs to be properly managed to ensure reserves are used sustainably, a group of international agencies has said.

The World Bank, UNESCO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Global Environment Facility and others issued the 2030 Vision and Global Framework for Action, a set of principles governments could use for better groundwater management. They said groundwater governance was an ‘area of policy neglect’, resulting in degradation and depletion of the resource.

The group called on the global community to work together to understand the barriers that are stopping better groundwater governance and address key regional challenges.

‘Global groundwater abstraction has tripled over the past half century. More than a fourth of current withdrawal is non-sustainable. Widespread groundwater pollution is threatening humans and the environment,’ the World Bank said.

‘Most urban aquifers suffer from sanitation issues while coastal aquifers are exposed to saline water intrusion. Industrial pollution, pesticides and fertilisers also find their way into reservoirs.’

The framework acknowledges that groundwater is vital to poverty reduction and shared prosperity. ‘Many poor farmers and their families depend on it to irrigate their crops and sustain their livelihoods,’ the bank added.

It said groundwater abstraction was the highest in parts of China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, the US, Mexico and Europe, resulting in a loss of fresh water reserves.

‘Since time immemorial humans have sought water from the soil. But we have moved from a village being based around a well to whole cities and industries being built around groundwater,’ said Junaid Ahmad, senior director at the World Bank’s Water Global Practice.

‘We have learned how to dig ever deeper, pump ever harder, and how to turn deserts into breadbaskets. But we have done this without considering the rate at which our groundwater is recharged, and so we should not be surprised when our wells run dry. Much as we have invested in pumps and crops, so now we must invest in groundwater governance.’

Naoko Ishii, chief executive officer and chair of the Global Environment Facility, added that sustainable management of groundwater is crucial to the maintenance ecosystems and climate change adaptations.

‘We can no longer take this invisible but vital source for granted; urgent action is needed to ensure its long term availability.’

  • Judith Ugwumadu
    Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith writes about public finance, public services and economics across Public Finance International and Public Finance. She previously undertook reporting stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express.

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