Removal of water from terrestrial subsurface storage is a natural consequence of groundwater withdrawals, but global depletion is not well characterized. Cumulative groundwater depletion represents a transfer of mass from land to the oceans that contributes to sea-level rise. Depletion is directly calculated using calibrated groundwater models, analytical approaches, or volumetric budget analyses for multiple aquifer systems. Estimated global groundwater depletion during 1900–2008 totals ∼4,500 km3, equivalent to a sea-level rise of 12.6 mm (>6% of the total). Furthermore, the rate of groundwater depletion has increased markedly since about 1950, with maximum rates occurring during the most recent period (2000–2008), when it averaged ∼145 km3/yr (equivalent to 0.40 mm/yr of sea-level rise, or 13% of the reported rate of 3.1 mm/yr during this recent period).