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Environment and health
Groundwater over-exploitation and use of fossil aquifers
Before the 1960s, large-diameter wells could easily extract shallow aquifers. Since the 1960s and the rapid development of oil production, groundwater extraction rate accelerated to such level that pumps became necessary to cope with the falling water tables (CEDARE, 2014). The coastal aquifers, Jefara plains and the Jabal al Akhdar aquifers, are now seriously overexploited and this is the main reason for the exploitation of the much deeper and non-renewable aquifers in the south of the country (FAO, 2009).
Deterioration of the water quality due to untreated municipal wastewater exists, however the main concern regarding water quality is related to saline intrusion in the coastal aquifers, where both population and agricultural activities are concentrated. The uncontrolled mining of groundwater for agriculture and falling water tables of the coastal aquifers, result in seawater intrusion, with an interface progressing up to two kilometres inlands in the Jefara plains and salinity levels increasing from 150 ppm to over 5000 ppm during the period 1950-1990.
Irrigation with increasing saline groundwater has led to soil salinization in some locations. For example in the Jefara plains, two irrigation schemes built in the 1970s with artesian wells, have now converted to pumped wells and have some waterlogged and salinized soils (CEDARE, 2014). Salinization increases irrigation water demands while crop yields decrease. Other examples exist in the southwestern part of Libya, as well as in the Murzuq basin due to inadequate drainage.