Groundwater as a Source of Drinking Water in Southeast Asia and the Pacific


The paper establishes a baseline of how many people across case study countries rely on groundwater for drinking water (79%) and explores resource management issues relevant to WASH professionals. The information was used in an analysis of proportions of people using groundwater as their primary source of drinking water across 10 SEA and Pacific Island countries.


Groundwater is widely acknowledged to be an important source of drinking water in low-income regions, and it, therefore, plays a critical role in the realization of the human right to water. However, the proportion of households using groundwater compared with other sources is rarely quantified, with national and global datasets more focused on facilities—rather than resources—used. This is a significant gap in knowledge, particularly in light of efforts to expand water services in line with the inclusive and integrated agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals. Understanding the prevalence of groundwater reliance for drinking is critical for those involved in water services planning and management, so they can better monitor and advocate for management of water resources that supports sustainable services for households. This paper contributes data that can be used to strengthen the integration of resource considerations within water service delivery and inform the work of development partners supporting this area. We approach this issue from two perspectives. Firstly, we collate data on the proportion of households using groundwater as their primary drinking water source for 10 Southeast Asian and Pacific nations, finding an average of 62% (range of 17–93% for individual countries) of households in urban areas and 60% (range of 22–95%) of households in rural areas rely on groundwater for drinking. Together, these constitute 79% of the total population across the case study countries. Secondly, we review current and emerging groundwater resource concerns within each country, using a systems thinking approach to assess how groundwater resource issues influence household water services. Findings support the case for governments and development agencies to strengthen engagement with groundwater resource management as foundational for achieving sustainable water services for all.

- Contributed by Naomi Carrard

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