The United States, China, India, Iran and Pakistan together account for more than 60% of the groundwater that is removed worldwide each year. Pakistan alone withdraws 6.6%, amounting to 65 cubic kilometres annually — 10 km3 more than is replaced each year by natural processes.
Pakistan, as a leading exporter of water-intensive crops such as rice, uses more global groundwater (29%, based on 2010 estimates) for agricultural exports than any other country (C. Dalin et al. Nature 543, 700–704; 2017). It recycles just 1.2% of its urban wastewater, whereas China and India reuse 71% and 22% of theirs, respectively (A. L. Thebo et al. Environ. Res. Lett. 12, 074008; 2017). Wastewater that is dumped into natural streams or used in irrigation ultimately finds its way into groundwater.
To improve management of Pakistan’s groundwater and avert a crisis, research is urgently needed into the impact of these practices on the quality and quantity of groundwater.
Nature 554, 300 (2018)