Groundwater is an increasingly important resource for urban and rural potable water supply, irrigated agriculture, and industry, in addition to its natural environmental role of sustaining river flows and aquatic ecosystems.

The aim of this paper is to provide a strategic overview of a decade of experience in supporting public administrations in their efforts to confront excessive groundwater resource exploitation for agricultural irrigation.

This overview provides a strategic assessment of trends in the public and private use of groundwater for urban water-supply in developing cities. Is based primarily on GW-MATE field experience from World Bank-supported projects, especially in Brazil and India, and more widely in Latin America and Asia, together with preliminary information from a number of African cities.

In the hard-rock terrains of Peninsular India groundwater resource management cannot be generally achieved through policy and regulatory actions by government, given the extremely large numbers of individually small users and the limited institutional capacity which needs to be focused on that small proportion of critical aquifers at risk of irreversible degradation.