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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-399
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-399
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: opinion article 12 Aug 2019

Submitted as: opinion article | 12 Aug 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

HESS Opinions: The Myth of Groundwater Sustainability in Asia

Franklin W. Schwartz1, Ganming Liu2, and Zhongbo Yu3 Franklin W. Schwartz et al.
  • 1School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 43210, USA
  • 2School of Earth, Environment and Society, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Hydrology‐Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Nanjing, 210098, China

Abstract. Across the arid regions of water-stressed countries of Asia, groundwater production for irrigated agriculture has led to water level declines that continue to worsen. For India, China, Pakistan, Iran and others, it is unrealistic to expect groundwater sustainability in a technical sense to emerge. With business as usual, groundwater-related problems receive insufficient attention, a situation referred to as an accelerating and invisible groundwater crisis (Biswas et al., 2017). Another obstacle to sustainability comes from trying to manage something you do not understand. With sustainable management, there are significant burdens in needed technical and socioeconomic knowhow, in collecting necessary data, and in implementing advanced technologies. A pragmatic research agenda for groundwater sustainability should recognize that a common threat to long-term sustainability could occur not just from over-pumping but widespread groundwater contamination. If groundwater sustainability is truly unachievable, then research is needed in facilitating adaption to the worst outcomes (Siegel et al., 2019). In hoping for the best outcomes, it is prudent to plan for the worst.

Franklin W. Schwartz et al.
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Short summary
We are concerned about the sad state-of-affairs around groundwater in the developing countries of Asia, and the obvious implications for sustainability. Groundwater production for irrigated agriculture has led to water level declines that continue to worsen. Yet, in the most populous countries, China, India, Pakistan and Iran, there are only token efforts towards evidence-based sustainable management. It is unrealistic to expect evidence-based groundwater sustainability to develop any time soon.
We are concerned about the sad state-of-affairs around groundwater in the developing countries...
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