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Estimated annual water availability per person in 2025 is likely to result in at least 40% of the world's 7.2 billion people facing serious problems with obtaining freshwater for agriculture, industry or human health (Gleick 2001). To meet present and future needs with the currently available surface and groundwater resources, while at the same time preserving terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, will require a sustainable approach to managing water. This paper discusses the importance of groundwater resources in industrialized and developing countries, and the associated problems of over-abstraction and groundwater pollution, with the objective of defining sustainable groundwater development. It is concluded that sustainable groundwater development at global and local scales is achieved through the maintenance and protection of groundwater resources balanced against economic, environmental and human (social) benefits. This interpretation of sustainable groundwater development is incorporated into the methodologies currently emerging in Europe (the EU Water Framework Directive) and England and Wales (Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies). However, success in achieving future sustainable groundwater development will require a common understanding at the level of the individual based on information and education within a legislatory framework that promotes co-operation and self-responsibility.

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