This focal area addresses the safety and reliability of groundwater resources as a vital necessity for human life, social and economic development, poverty alleviation and healthy functioning ecosystems. Sustainable groundwater management is based on holistic, multidisciplinary and environmentally sound approaches and studies that include groundwater quantity and quality, relationships between groundwater and surface water and groundwater dependent ecosystems and land use planning and practices. These studies take into consideration ethical, religious and cultural traditions of society and should be based on a participatory approach involving decision and policy makers, water scientists and managers, planners, water stakeholders and general public. This focal area addresses quantitative attributes of groundwater resources management and protection while groundwater quality attributes are addressed in Focal area 2.4.
Sustainable groundwater development and resource management very much depend on knowledge of aquifer systems, groundwater recharge and discharge rates and groundwater storage. Demographic changes and population growth in several regions and related increases in groundwater demand for drinking and other uses as well as influence of changing climatic conditions on groundwater are other factors which have to be studied to ensure sustainable development and management of groundwater resources for the future needs. Specific attention should be also given to the management of non-renewable groundwater resources whose exploitation always leads to storage reduction.