Groundwater abstraction from the transboundary Indo-Gangetic Basin comprises 25% of global groundwater withdrawals, sustaining agricultural productivity in Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Recent interpretations of satellite gravity data indicate that current abstraction is unsustainable, yet these large-scale interpretations lack the spatio-temporal resolution required to govern groundwater effectively. Here we report new evidence from high-resolution in situ records of groundwater levels, abstraction and groundwater quality, which reveal that sustainable groundwater supplies are constrained more by extensive contamination than depletion.