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UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability: joint learnings from human-groundwater interactions

Disclaimer: The data for this page has been produced from IATI data published by UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Please contact them (Show Email Address) if you have any questions about their data.

Project Data Last Updated: 27/08/2020

IATI Identifier: GB-GOV-13-FUND--GCRF-ES_S008276_1


Billions of people around the world rely for their everyday existence on groundwater. Its invisibility, however, makes groundwater notoriously difficult to govern, also complicating efforts to avoid depletion or pollution. This project sets out to comparatively study promising grass-roots initiatives of people organizing around groundwater in places where pressures on the resource are particularly acute (India, Algeria, Morocco, USA, Chile, Peru, Tanzania). As these often defy or challenge conventional wisdom, the project's hypothesis is that these initiatives contain creative insights about ways of dealing with the intrinsic tensions that characterize groundwater governance: between individual and collective interests and between short-term gains and longer-term sustainability. Focusing on groundwater practices - of knowing, accessing and sharing - we combine qualitative ethnographic methods with hydrogeological and engineering insights to explore the knowledges, technologies and institutions that characterize these initiatives. Our aim is to enunciate and normatively assess their logic and functioning in view of tracing overlaps or patterns that allow them to serve as more generic models for transformations to groundwater sustainability. This effort is inspired by theorizations of water as simultaneously social and natural, builds on recent critical scholarship on institutions, and has a particular sensitivity to how the distribution and use of groundwater is mediated by technologies. Our overall aim is to create global action-research collaborations to generate new inspirations for thinking about and dealing with interconnections and interdependencies between humans and groundwater


Groundwater currently provides drinking water for about half of the world's human population and irrigation water for some forty-two percent of the world's irrigated lands (Burke & Moench 2000). However, rapidly accelerating rates of extraction cause the overexploitation and pollution of aquifers, threatening their sustainability and jeopardizing future water security (Margat 2008). Groundwater depletion is in large part due to irrigation that is increasingly allocated to cash crops for international food trade, thus also posing risks for local food security in vulnerable regions (Dalin et al. 2017). While the need for its equitable socio-ecological governance is increasingly critical, its invisibility makes groundwater notoriously difficult to regulate (Shah 2009). The project begins with the premise that sustainable groundwater governance should be built from 'realities on the ground' (see www.groundwatergovernance.org). This project sets out to: 1. Document instances of spontaneous 'bottom-up' groundwater governance 1 . Develop sound understandings of grounded realities of water governance through a comparative analysis of spontaneous grass-roots initiatives of people organizing around the sharing or protection of groundwater in places where threats of depletion and pollution are particularly acute 2. Create global action-research collaborations around such initiatives, generating new inspirations for thinking about and dealing with interconnections and interdependencies between humans and groundwater.

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Sectors groups as a percentage of country budgets according to the Development Assistance Committee's classifications.


A comparison across six financial years of forecast spend and the total amount of money spent on the project to date.

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