OECD Studies on Water

2224-5081 (online)
2224-5073 (print)
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Water is essential for economic growth, human health, and the environment. Yet governments around the world face significant challenges in managing their water resources effectively. The problems are multiple and complex: billions of people are still without access to safe water and adequate sanitation; competition for water is increasing among the different uses and users; and major investment is required to maintain and improve water infrastructure in OECD and non-OECD countries. This OECD series on water provides policy analysis and guidance on the economic, financial and governance aspects of water resources management. These aspects generally lie at the heart of the water problem and hold the key to unlocking the policy puzzle.

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Groundwater Allocation

Groundwater Allocation

Managing Growing Pressures on Quantity and Quality You do not have access to this content

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17 Oct 2017
9789264284296 (EPUB) ; 9789264281554 (PDF) ;9789264281523(print)

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Groundwater allocation determines who is able to use groundwater resources, how, when and where. It directly affects the value (economic, ecological, socio-cultural) that individuals and society obtain from groundwater, today and in the future. Building on the 2015 OECD publication Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities, this report focuses on groundwater and how its allocation can be improved in terms of economic efficiency, environmental effectiveness and social equity. Drawing on an analysis of groundwater’s distinctive features and nine case studies of groundwater allocation in a range of countries, the report provides practical policy guidance for groundwater allocation in the form of a "health check". This health check can be used to assess the performance of current arrangements and manage the transition towards improved allocation.

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  • Foreword

    The intensifying competition for surface and groundwater resources is widely documented. The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050 highlights that water resources are already over-used or over‐allocated in many places, with global demand expected to increase by 55% between 2000 and mid-century. Groundwater withdrawals have risen sharply over the past years – increasing nearly tenfold according to some estimates. These pressures, projected to be further exacerbated by climate change, have already made water allocation an urgent issue in a number of countries and one that is rising on the agenda in many others. Within this context, the OECD published the report Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities in 2015 to strengthen the evidence base and develop policy guidance to improve the design of allocation regimes.

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  • Executive summary

    As the predominant reservoir of freshwater on Earth, groundwater provides an important source of water supply for drinking, irrigation and industry and contributes to sustaining groundwater-dependent ecosystems, such as streams and wetlands. Pressures on the quantity and quality of the resource have increased significantly over recent decades. Globally, groundwater withdrawals have risen sharply; nearly tenfold in the past 50 years (Shah et al., 2007). At the same time, the resource is becoming increasingly degraded due to pollution and saline intrusion. Unsustainable groundwater use creates negative environmental externalities, including land subsidence, saline intrusion and the deterioration of groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Groundwater depletion also increases the cost of use, as pumping is required from ever-increasing depths, which may disadvantage small scale users. This depletion can also result in water shortage directly affecting users, with an impact on economic activities.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Key information and guidance for groundwater policy

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    • Overview of groundwater resources and prevailing trends

      This chapter provides an overview of trends documenting increasing pressures on groundwater resources. It examines the range of benefits obtained from groundwater, including the economic value derived from productive uses, the ecological value provided to groundwater-dependent ecosystems, and the option value the resource provides as a buffer against future water shortages. The chapter then reviews the distinctive features of groundwater and their relevance for allocation policy design.

    • The OECD health check for water resources allocation: Groundwater guidance

      This chapter sets out policy guidance for groundwater allocation. The guidance in this chapter should be used as a supplement to the OECD Health Check for Water Resources when assessing allocation arrangements of groundwater systems and in cases where surface and groundwater systems are managed conjunctively. The guidance in this chapter first reiterates some of the general principles that apply broadly to all allocation regimes, then describes how the specific features of groundwater can be considered.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Case studies of groundwater allocation in practice

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    • Overview of case studies

      This chapter provides an introduction to nine case studies of groundwater allocation in Denmark; Tucson, Arizona; Kumamoto, Japan; Mexico; the Upper Guadiana Basin, Spain; Texas; France; India and North China). It briefly summarises the challenges related to groundwater allocation examined and the elements of the “Health Check” discussed in each case study.

    • A comprehensive allocation regime in Denmark

      This chapter examines groundwater allocation in Denmark, which provides an example of a comprehensive allocation regime, combining time-bound entitlements, a cap on total abstraction which accounts for environmental needs, economic instruments and a well-developed monitoring network. The case study also highlights the importance of measures in place to protect groundwater quality in Denmark, given groundwater’s importance as a drinking water source.

    • Managing scarce groundwater resources to ensure long-term supply in Tucson, Arizona

      This chapter examines groundwater allocation in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson provides an example of how developing a diversified water resources portfolio along with water banking and demand management has helped to eliminate groundwater mining. The case also highlights the importance of flexibility in groundwater allocation and of concerted stakeholder engagement.

    • Payments for groundwater recharge to ensure groundwater supply in Kumamoto, Japan

      This chapter discusses the case of Kumamoto, Japan, which provides an illustration of a payment for ecosystem services scheme to provide financial incentives for groundwater recharge. The case documents how the scheme managed to raise groundwater levels, improving the security of supply for industrial and other groundwater users.

    • Enforcement challenges and efforts to implement environmental flow requirements in Mexico

      This chapter discusses groundwater allocation challenges in Mexico. It documents how the government's attempts to exert greater control over groundwater pumping have been stymied by weak enforcement. It also documents efforts to secure water for environmental purposes via standards for environmental flows.

    • Enforcement and budget challenges for groundwater reallocation in the Upper Guadiana Basin, Spain

      This chapter summarises efforts by Spanish authorities to slow groundwater depletion in the Upper Guadiana Basin. The case study discusses the policies and legal changes put into place to shift groundwater from private property to a resource managed under the public domain as well as efforts to reallocate water to higher value uses, including the environment.

    • Long term abstraction limits to conserve groundwater in Texas

      This chapter examines how groundwater conservation districts in Texas have had a positive impact on the level of groundwater depletion. However, efforts by authorities to limit groundwater pumping have given rise to conflicts with private property claims in some cases. The case also discusses the “50/50” conservation scheme in the Texas Panhandle, which provides a good example of concerted and rigorous long term planning to explicitly account for intertemporal allocation and provide an incentive for farmers to adopt water conservation practices.

    • The collective management approach for irrigation in France

      This chapter reviews the case of groundwater allocation for irrigation in France, where the government has instituted collective management bodies to allow water users to take on the task of allocating a fixed abstraction limit among themselves. The case documents the key features of the approach as well as numerous implementation challenges.

    • Co-managing electricity and groundwater allocation in Gujarat, India

      This chapter examines efforts to address groundwater depletion in Gujarat, India. This case explores how a scheme to ration electricity for the agricultural sector has reduced groundwater use as well as the cost of electricity subsidies.

    • Flexibility in allocation through informal water trading in North China

      This chapter explores how informal water trading has provided flexibility in groundwater allocation in North China. The case discusses how informal groundwater markets emerged as a result of well privatisation as well as some of the distributional considerations that arise from informal markets. The case also discusses the influence of pumping costs on trading activity and groundwater consumption.

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