The director of National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) has urged Australia to take a leading role in tackling the emerging global crisis in groundwater management.


Professor Craig Simmons highlighted a report released by UNESCO that warns degradation and depletion of the world’s groundwater resources is continuing unabated on a global scale.


“There is undoubtedly a very serious situation emerging with respect to groundwater in certain parts of the world. In the 1990s, the world extracted about 102 cubic kilometres a year, but in the 2000s this rose to 145 cu kms – and there is every indication it has continued to increase,” Professor Simmons said.


“In many situations groundwater is a finite resource and is not renewed at anything like the rates it is being extracted. This poses real risks for economic growth, the sustainability of huge cities and vital industries like food and energy production, especially in dry, heavily-populated regions.”


Professor Simmons said Australia, with its experience and technological advancement, is obliged to assist other countries better manage their groundwater management.


The UNESCO study lists among areas of significant groundwater decline as California and the High Plains in the US, the Mexico Basin, several river basins in Spain, the Arabian peninsula, Iran, the Indus basin in India, the North China Plain and the Great Artesian Basin in Australia.


“In addition to these documented examples, there are numerous other aquifers around the world where groundwater levels have declined or are still declining, with variable impacts on society and the environment,” it says.


Ms Julia Bucknall, Manager of the World Banks’ central unit for water says “I would describe the global groundwater situation as one in which the world is eating into their savings account without knowing how much they have in savings, how much they are using, how long they can carry on doing it - or what will happen when the savings run out.”