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Drying Wells, Rising Stakes

Towards Sustainable Agricultural Groundwater Use

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Groundwater has provided great benefits to agriculture irrigation in semi-arid OECD countries, but its intensive use beyond recharge in certain regions has depleted resources and generated significant negative environmental externalities. The report provides a characterisation of the diversity of groundwater systems, reviews policies in OECD countries, and proposes a package of recommendations to ensure that groundwater can sustain its services to agriculture and contribute to climate change adaptation.

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Executive summary

Groundwater resources sustain a significant and increasing share of irrigated agricultural production. On a global scale, groundwater represents over 40% of consumptive irrigation water use, covering just under 40% of irrigated land globally. In OECD countries, groundwater for agriculture irrigation is used on 23 million hectares, for an estimated annual volume of 123.5 km3, accounting for about 20% of global irrigation withdrawals.

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