Much attention has been paid to the issue of groundwater depletion linked to intensive groundwater-based agriculture in (semi-)arid areas. Often referred to as the “overexploitation” of aquifers, groundwater depletion is generally attributed to the entire agricultural sector without distinguishing between different uses and users. Although it expresses a general concern for future users, the ambiguous term of “overexploitation” does not acknowledge the contested nature of groundwater use and emerging inequalities. Also, the impact of inequality on groundwater depletion is rarely questioned. The aim of this article is to investigate how and by whom groundwater is depleted, and in turn, how unequal access to groundwater fuels the socioeconomic differentiation of farms and groundwater depletion. Based on a detailed analysis of groundwater use from a user perspective in two irrigated areas in North Africa (Morocco and Algeria), this study shows how the context of groundwater depletion exacerbates—and is exacerbated by—existing inequalities. The paper concludes that knowing how much is withdrawn, where, and by whom provides helpful information for more informed groundwater management by a better understanding of the response of users to declining groundwater conditions and the interests and incentives of different social categories of famers to contribute to groundwater management.
Hydrogeology Journal – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 1, 2017
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