Reconciling Groundwater Storage Depletion Due to Pumping with Sustainability
Groundwater pumping causes depletion of groundwater storage. The rate of depletion incurred by any new well is gradually decreasing and eventually becomes zero in the long run, after induced recharge and reduction of natural discharge of groundwater combined (capture) have become large enough to balance the pumping rate completely. If aquifer-wide aggregated pumping rates are comparatively large, then such a new dynamic equilibrium may not be reached and groundwater storage may become exhausted. Decisions to pump groundwater are motivated by people’s need for domestic water and by expected benefits of using water for a variety of activities. But how much finally is abstracted from an aquifer (or is considered to be an optimal aggregate abstraction rate) depends on a wide range of other factors as well. Among these, the constraint imposed by the groundwater balance (preventing aquifer exhaustion) has received ample attention in the professional literature. However, other constraints or considerations related to changes in groundwater level due to pumping are observed as well and in many cases they even may dominate the decisions on pumping. This paper reviews such constraints or considerations, examines how they are or may be incorporated in the decision-making process, and evaluates to what extent the resulting pumping rates and patterns create conditions that comply with principles of sustainability.
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