Many of the world’s major aquifers are under severe stress as a result of deficits created by large imbalances between inflows and outflows. These deficits have led to widespread depletion and, in some areas, degradation of groundwater resources, which is of particular concern in areas where alternative water supplies are limited. As a result, the question of what the future holds for these heavily stressed aquifers is being asked with increasing urgency worldwide. This Chapman conference will draw together the community of researchers interested in the general topic of the sustainability of heavily stressed aquifers. Our goal is to assemble a diverse group of participants from the hydrology, policy, economics, and social science communities to discuss:
- insights gained from previous field and modeling investigations and policy initiatives,
- unresolved questions regarding key governing mechanisms and conceptual-model uncertainties,
- approaches for tailoring policies to mesh with existing cultural and regulatory frameworks,
- appropriate roles for economic incentives, and
- prospects for a more sustainable future.
An emphasis will be placed on large regional aquifers supporting irrigated agriculture, as agriculture is the major user of groundwater. The ultimate objective of the conference will be to define promising paths forward for these heavily stressed systems.