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About the Project

Project background

photoThe international debate on climate change has made evident that many countries of the world are approaching or have gone beyond the limits of their renewable water resources.

As a consequence, the groundwater storage that provides the ultimate resource buffer is threatened with a double jeopardy - depletion and degradation.

Over the past 50 to 60 years, rapid population growth, increased urbanization and unsustainable water use practices have placed an enormous pressure on water resources. With greater climate variability, competition for water resources between agriculture, livestock, energy, mining, industrial sectors and domestic supply is an increasing threat to economic development, food security, livelihoods, integrity of ecosystem services, and poverty reduction in many countries.

Growing water demand is contributing to abstraction of groundwater beyond sustainable levels. In addition, un-regulated land use and consequent land degradation are impacting recharge areas of aquifers, and together with pollution of groundwater, are contributing to decreased productivity of water services, the loss of biodiversity, impoverished livelihoods and ill health.

Climate change is expected to impact the entire hydrological cycle - precipitation, evaporation, infiltration and runoff - affecting water availability and use at all levels: regional (transboundary), national, and local, with significant effects on ecosystems, livelihoods and economic growth especially in developing countries.


Sea level rise from global warming poses greater risks of salinization for coastal water supplies, particularly in SIDS. Yet solutions to the water crisis already affecting many countries and the emerging global concerns over climate change have given little recognition or weight to the wide availability and vital function of groundwater in the global water cycle, its unique characteristics, and the immense benefits provided by its proper protection, management and development.

Specifically, the project developed a Framework for Action that is expected to catalyze policy reform and institutional strengthening at the global and national level in relation to groundwater resources.

This in turn will provide an enabling environment for practical advances in groundwater management and protection at the local level, where progress is has often been impeded. 

Quick Facts

  • Groundwater supplies nearly half of all drinking water in the world.
  • Groundwater supplies around 43% of all water effectively consumed in irrigation.
  • Aquifers offer an important buffer by making water available even during long periods without rainfall.
  • Groundwater systems constitute probably about 30% of the global total water and as much as 98% of all freshwater in liquid form.
  • Top 5 groundwater-abstracting countries: India, china, USA, Pakistan and Iran.
  • Most important impacts of groundwater depletion include increasing costs for lifting, salinity, land subsidence, degraded springs and reduced base flows.
  • The state of groundwater resources is closely linked to the state of groundwater governance.