Internationally shared, or transboundary, aquifers (TBAs) have long played an important role in sustaining drinking water supply and food production, supporting livelihoods of millions of people worldwide. Rapidly growing populations and their food demands cast significant doubt on the sustainability of TBAs. Here, this study provides a first quantitative assessment of TBAs worldwide with an aquifer stress indicator over the period 1960–2010 using groundwater abstraction, groundwater recharge, and groundwater contribution to environment flow. The results reveal that 8% of TBAs worldwide are currently stressed due to human overexploitation. Over these TBAs the rate of groundwater pumping increased substantially during the past fifty years, which worsened the aquifer stress condition. In addition, many TBAs over Europe, Asia and Africa are not currently stressed, but their aquifer stress has been increasing at an alarming rate (>100%) for the past fifty years, due to the increasing reliance on groundwater abstaction for food production. Groundwater depletion is substantial over several TBAs including the India River Plain (India, Pakistan), the Paleogene and Cretaceous aquifers (the Arabian Peninsula), and a few TBAs over the USA–Mexico border. Improving irrigation efficiency can reduce the amount of groundwater depletion over some TBAs, but it likely aggravates groundwater depletion over TBAs where conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater is prevalent.
Journal or book title:
Environmental Research Letters
Country/countries and or aquifer(s) covered in publication: