Rethinking the Approach to Groundwater and Food Security

Marcus Moench
Jacob Burke
Yarrow Moench

FAO in collaboration with the
Institute for Social and Environmental Transition
Boulder, Colorado
United States of America

Water Reports 24

ISSN 1020-1203

Rome, 2003

Table of Contents


Cover photo: Drilling for groundwater emplaced 3000-4000 years ago in the Batinah coastal plain, Oman/J.J. Burke/FAO

The designations employed and the presentations of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-104904-1

All rights reserved. Reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product for educational or non-commercial purposes are authorized without any prior written permission from the copyright holders provided the source is fully acknowledged. Reproduction of material in this information product for resale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holders. Applications for such permission should be addressed to the Chief, Publishing Management Service, Information Division, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy or by e-mail to [email protected]

© FAO 2003

Table of Contents



Core message

Groundwater issues have important implications for food security, but effective responses require a change in perspective
Adaptation is occurring and presents opportunities
A strategic approach including adaptation is required

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 2 - The links between groundwater and food security

Resource availability and production
Entitlements and food security
Environmental data and environmental myth

Chapter 3 - Understanding the dynamics of groundwater resources

Nature and limitations of available data
Groundwater in China

Problems in accessing groundwater data
Implications for food security
The viability of groundwater management

Groundwater monitoring in India

Analytical methods and the role of groundwater data in development finance
Recharge estimation
Abstraction estimation
Methodological improvements
Data collection and quality
Water-level fluctuations
Evaluation summary

Conclusions on groundwater data and analysis

Chapter 4 - Implications

Implications for the analysis of food security
Widening the Malthusian perspective

The standard management paradigm
‘Clumsy’ approaches
The significance of adaptive approaches in groundwater management

Implications for groundwater management

Chapter 5 - Recommendations

Rethinking the approach to groundwater management
Basic research
Groundwater monitoring and data collection, dissemination and access
Integrated management in strategic locations
Laying the foundations for management in complex locations
Disseminating global lessons


FAO technical papers

Back cover