Groundwater is an increasingly important source of water: globally, it is used to provide 50% of drinking water supplies and approximately half of the irrigation water used to grow food. In many regions, over abstraction of groundwater has led to groundwater depletion, the impacts of which include lower groundwater levels, reduction in groundwater storage, salt-water intrusion, degraded water quality, land subsidence, and impacts on interconnected surface waters. Global proliferation of such impacts, combined with the fact that some of this degradation is irreversible, has to led to concerns that a “global groundwater crisis” is emerging (Famiglietti 2014; Foster et al., 2013).
To reverse this trend and ensure the long-term health of humanity and ecosystems, governance systems that achieve sustainable stewardship of groundwater are necessary. Key to groundwater governance is the ability predict, determine the effects of, monitor, and influence human actions that impact the groundwater system. The research projects we engage in examine how groundwater governance emerges and can be improved, with a particular emphasis on how groundwater governance occurs in the context of fragmented and overlapping jurisdictions and responsibilities, including separation of authority and planning over surface water and groundwater, water and land, and other socially-constructed separations.