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World calls for urgent action to avoid irreversible groundwater depletion

Staff writer |
The FAO, UNESCO, World Bank, GEF and International Association of Hydrogeologists called for action by the global community to manage the increasingly urgent depletion and degradation of limited groundwater resources.

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Ahead of the 7th World Water Forum in Daegu and Gyeongbuk next week, the group proposed a set of principles governments can use for better groundwater management. The 2030 Vision and Global Framework for Action represents a bold call for collectively responsible action among governments and the global community to ensure sustainable use of groundwater.

For too long, groundwater governance has been an area of policy neglect, resulting in its degradation and depletion. 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. Most urban aquifers suffer from sanitation issues while coastal aquifers are exposed to saline water intrusion. Industrial pollution, pesticides and fertilizers also find their way into reservoirs.

The amount of renewable groundwater is unevenly distributed across regions. Some areas, especially those with low rainfall, are at risk more than others. Withdrawal intensity is highest in large parts of China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, the US, Mexico and Europe.

This could result in lost freshwater reserves at a time when groundwater storage is critical for sustaining water security and adapting to climate variability.

Groundwater is indispensable to poverty reduction and shared prosperity. It accounts for more than a third of municipal and industrial supply and some 40 percent of the global irrigated area is serviced by groundwater. Groundwater has the potential to provide an improved source of drinking water for millions of urban and rural poor people.

Many poor farmers and their families depend on it to irrigate their crops and sustain their livelihoods.

The 2030 Vision and Framework for Action provides the enabling framework and guiding principles for a coordinated action among governments and organizations.

In response to the urgency of the situation, a product of four years of consultations with stakeholders from more than 100 countries, these principles focus on legal and institutional frameworks, policies, and plans as well as information and incentive structures for sound and effective groundwater management.

This process signals strengthened collaboration across the international community to understand the barriers to better groundwater governance and address key regional challenges.

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