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Sustainable Groundwater Management

Part 13. Groundwater

  1. Philip Brunner1,
  2. Wolfgang Kinzelbach2

Published Online: 13 JUN 2008

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa164

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Brunner, P. and Kinzelbach, W. 2008. Sustainable Groundwater Management. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 13.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Flinders University, School of Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Sciences, Adelaide, Australia

  2. 2

    Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Institute of Environmental Engineering, Zurich, Switzerland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 JUN 2008


The pressure on global water resources is increasing continuously, and the need for sustainable groundwater management practices has never been greater than now. First formulations of sustainable aquifer management were published as early as 1915, and since then, the attention given to this subject has been growing. However, the huge number of different approaches describing what sustainable water management is, suggests that it is practically impossible to provide a definition general enough to cover all the different systems and at the same time concrete enough to offer useful advice to the stakeholders and decision makers involved. In this article, a short overview of the development of the term sustainability in the context of aquifer management is discussed and put into context with the physical features of aquifers. Considering the difficulties that arise in finding a universally applicable definition of sustainability, identifying nonsustainable practices to be avoided and developing a suitable working methodology in a basin-wide context is a more efficient approach. To illustrate the consequences of nonsustainable practices, some of the most prominent groundwater-related sustainability issues are briefly discussed—the overpumping of aquifers, the destruction of wetlands, salinization of soils and water resources, as well as the contamination of aquifers with persistent pollutants, such as salt or chlorinated hydrocarbons. Finally, the role of numerical modeling as a tool to develop sustainable management practices is analyzed, and a case study is presented to provide an example of a suitable working methodology within a specific project area.


  • sustainability;
  • groundwater;
  • surface water;
  • water resources;
  • numerical modeling;
  • salinity;
  • wetlands