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Groundwater is a body of water stored in the underground. Groundwater can be static as a result of water accumulation in the long past. Usually, however, the groundwater is dynamic and it flows through an aquifer, or aquifer system, subject to recharge while at the downstream end it discharges into an open water body like a river, a lake, a wetland or the sea.

Static groundwater reservoirs can be found under large deserts like the Sahara. Exploitation of static groundwater leads to depletion (mining) of the resource.

Dynamic groundwater is usually exploited with wells for irrigation, industry and households. The competition often leads to over-exploitation of the aquifer whereby its water level drops and the water resource gets out of the reach of the poor and it remains available only to those who have enough capital to sink very deep wells. At the downstream end of the aquifer the discharge reduces considerably affecting negatively the downstream water users as well as the ecology. In irrigation projects in (semi)arid regions where groundwater is used the groundwater tends to get more salty over time due to the continuous evaporation by which the salt concentration increases continually. Further, serious land subsidence may occur. In industrial areas and in agricultural lands with ample use of fertilizers and biocides the groundwater can become seriously polluted.

Ideally, the water balance of aquifers is carefully assessed and monitored and the user rights are determined based on this assessment as well as on socio-political-legal conditions. The establishment of a groundwater flow model can be helpful in this respect. Unfortunately, proper groundwater management is still in its infancy even in developed countries.

References / Links

An Fao paper on Groundwater management can be found in:

Chapter 2 on "Groundwater investigations in the ILRI publication 16 on "Drainage Principles and Applications" can be found in

An example of a free agro-hydro-salinity groundwater model can be found in:

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