Green growth and sustainable development

Groundwater Allocation

Managing Growing Pressures on Quantity and Quality

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Published on October 17, 2017


Groundwater allocation determines who is able to use groundwater resources, how, when and where. It directly affects the value (economic, ecological, socio-cultural) that individuals and society obtain from groundwater, today and in the future. Building on the 2015 OECD publication Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities, this report focuses on groundwater and how its allocation can be improved in terms of economic efficiency, environmental effectiveness and social equity. Drawing on an analysis of groundwater’s distinctive features and nine case studies of groundwater allocation in a range of countries, the report provides practical policy guidance for groundwater allocation in the form of a "health check". This health check can be used to assess the performance of current arrangements and manage the transition towards improved allocation.


Executive summary
Key information and guidance for groundwater policy2 chapters available
Overview of groundwater resources and prevailing trends
The OECD health check for water resources allocation: Groundwater guidance
Case studies of groundwater allocation in practice10 chapters available
Overview of case studies
A comprehensive allocation regime in Denmark
Managing scarce groundwater resources to ensure long-term supply in Tucson, Arizona
Payments for groundwater recharge to ensure groundwater supply in Kumamoto, Japan
Enforcement challenges and efforts to implement environmental flow requirements in Mexico
Enforcement and budget challenges for groundwater reallocation in the Upper Guadiana Basin, Spain
Long term abstraction limits to conserve groundwater in Texas
The collective management approach for irrigation in France
Co-managing electricity and groundwater allocation in Gujarat, India
Flexibility in allocation through informal water trading in North China
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Groundwater withdrawals have risen sharply in the past 50 years and the resource is becoming increasingly degraded due to pollution and saline intrusion.

On 30 November 2017, Kathleen Dominique of the OECD Environment Directorate discussed the challenges of groundwater allocation and the key questions governments need to answer to establish robust allocation arrangements: how can policies slow depletion, contribute to aquifer recovery and prevent pollution? and how can allocation arrangements be designed to maximise the benefits – economic, environmental and social – derived from groundwater today and in the future?

The talk highlighted findings from the recently released OECD report: Groundwater Allocation: Managing Growing Pressures on Quantity and Quality.

Policy Highlights - water resources allocation: sharing risks and opportunities

Water resources allocation determines who is able to use water resources, how, when and where. The 2015 report Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities (including the Policy Highlights) overviews how allocation works in a range of countries and how the performance of allocation arrangements can be improved to adjust to changing conditions.

Cover Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities