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Is groundwater reaching its limits?

The rapid development in groundwater, however, comes at a price. In many arid areas, more and more areas are in overdraft and the associated water-quality problems are emerging. In India, unreliable power supplies combined with weak management of groundwater resources greatly constrain the growth of irrigated agriculture. The focus of the world’s attention on the environmental degradation and dislocation associated with dams has obscured another major environmental issue in the management of water resources. The explosion of the use of pumps for irrigation, domestic and industrial use is degrading groundwater resources. The point has been reached in some areas that the overexploitation is posing a major threat to the environment, health and food security.

The limit of groundwater development for irrigation in the world’s major ‘breadbasket’ countries may be reached in a few years - before the end of the present decade in India. Overexploitation of groundwater resources in arid and semi-arid countries has been documented in recent studies - Ogallala aquifer in the United States, Coastal aquifer and Souss aquifers in Morocco, Hermosillo in Mexico. It is expected that the development of groundwater for irrigated agriculture is going to slow down in the coming years.

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