IWA Publishing

Unauthorized groundwater use: institutional, social and ethical considerations

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In many areas of the world, particularly in arid regions or in areas experiencing population growth, there is increased competition over scarce water resources. This is likely to increase in the future due to continued population growth, urban expansion and the challenge of the impact of climate change on water resource availability. In this context, groundwater is likely to play a pivotal role in facing water scarcity. When different users share a common-pool resource, basic rules are usually established to manage access to the resource and ensure balance between demand and supply. Water authorities worldwide are increasingly paying added attention towards regulating the use of groundwater because of its strategic value, e.g. in times of drought or as a natural reserve. In the case of groundwater, although regulatory measures exist, they are often difficult to enforce. This paper explores the situation with a discussion of two aspects: first (and in line with this special issue on water ethics), an examination of the fundamental individual values that underpin behavior in relation to water use, and second, an investigation of the typologies of unauthorized water use, its main potential impacts, potential root causes and reflections on imperfect institutions and social norms.

Keywords: Groundwater, Illegal use, Regulation, Spain

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