Groundwater is increasingly used for water supply and irrigation. For several decades, aquifers have been intensively developed and notable changes have occurred to recharge, groundwater flow, discharge and water quality conditions. These changes have inevitably accompanied technological developments that have allowed individuals, small groups and whole communities to solve their water problems affordably and, in impoverished areas, to diminish poverty and improve health conditions. The measurable benefits from intensive groundwater development may also come with detrimental hydrogeological and environmental consequences, which are additional direct and indirect costs. To ensure a rational and sustainable use of the groundwater resource, there must be an understanding of the physical structure and characteristics of the aquifer system and extraction must be managed in the context of the basin-wide water resources. Effective groundwater management necessitates empowerment of the appropriate institution to conduct the management activities and participatory stakeholder involvement in the development and implementation of the groundwater management programme. This includes establishing environmental goals and a monitoring plan tailored to the history of local groundwater abstraction, projected water demands, issues of concern (e.g. water quality protection and preservation of water-dependent wetlands) and the available water supplies within the basin. A series of considerations on technical, economic and social aspects are proposed, in agreement with the far-reaching nature of the issue.

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