Groundwater Allocation

Managing Growing Pressures on Quantity and Quality

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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.




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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