GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 226-3
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM


SCHWARTZ, Franklin W., School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, 125 S. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210, LIU, Ganming, School of Earth, Environment and Society, Bowling Green State University, 280 Overman Hall, Bowling Green, OH 43403 and YU, Zhongbo, State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjng, China

So far, the absence of policies for groundwater management in the populous countries of Asia has provoked a race to the bottom with more and more pumping for irrigation leading to lowered groundwater levels, for example, in northern China, northwestern India, Iran and Pakistan. Not surprisingly, associated problems of salinity, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers are also widespread. We focus on Asia because of the importance of groundwater in supporting large and growing populations. Yet, in the face of continuing groundwater overproduction for irrigated agriculture, water-levels have declined and getting progressively worse. Progress towards sustainable development has been slow to non-existent. For some countries, e.g., India, China, Iran and others groundwater sustainability is essentially just a myth. There are compelling arguments as to why it is unrealistic to expect groundwater sustainability in a rigorous technical sense to emerge. Money is being spent on more obvious problems associated with food production, water needs for growing populations, power generation and more. Historically, groundwater-related problems have been out of sight, out of mind and destined to remain there. For India, Biswas and colleagues refer to this state-of-affairs as “India’s accelerating and invisible groundwater crisis”. A second reason is simply the inability to manage something you don’t understand. With sustainable management in mind, there are significant burdens in growing up needed technical know how, in collecting needed data and in costs for advanced technologies. GSA President Don Siegel has challenged us to contemplate a future where the geosciences are consumed by the problems of adapting to unmitigated impacts of climate change. This paradigm also provides a pragmatic view of possible research directions in understanding when the groundwater is likely to run out, possibilities for creatively stretching the supply, and envisioning ways to deal with declines in water, food and health.