Water shortages demand action

28th April 2015

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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Adaptation


Richard Burton

Global groundwater withdrawals have tripled over the past 50 years, with more than 25% of extractions described as non-sustainable, according to a new report from four global agencies.

Unesco, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the International Association of Hydrogeologists claim governance of groundwater resources has for too long been an area of policy neglect and have called for urgent action to manage the increase in depletion and degradation. They set out in the report, 2030 vision and global framework for action, the principles governments should adopt to better manage groundwater.

The study warns that widespread groundwater pollution is threatening humans and the environment. It says that most urban aquifers are suffering from sanitation issues, while coastal aquifers are exposed to saline water intrusion while industrial pollution, pesticides and fertilisers are seeping into reservoirs.

According to the report, withdrawal intensity is highest in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, the US, Mexico and Europe. It says this consumption could lead to a loss of freshwater reserves at a time when groundwater storage is critical for sustaining water security and adapting to climate variability.

“We can no longer take this invisible but vital source for granted; urgent action is needed to ensure its long-term availability,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF chief executive.

The report was published as the governor of California, Jerry Brown, introduced the first statewide mandatory water reduction measures. The executive order requires cities and towns in California to reduce water use by 25% over the next nine months. The move follows a two-year drought. In 2015, the governor declared a drought state of emergency after the driest year on record.


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