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Abstract

Karst aquifers are some of the most important and well-used sources of water worldwide. The tapping of karst waters for use as drinking water has been important in the historical and economic development of many karst regions. Recent studies have found that karstified rocks and aquifer systems cover c. 15% of the Earth’s ice-free land. The greatest area of karst outcrops (>1 × 106 km2) is in Russia, the USA, China and Canada. In the Mediterranean basin, groundwater is generally more abundant in karst than in other aquifers and has been extensively exploited. Karst groundwater is also widely used in the Middle East, China, North America, and northern and eastern Africa and is of crucial importance for the sustainable development of tourism and the economy. Karst aquifers currently supply c. 10% of the global population with drinking water and, in some zones, they are the only water resource available. However, the share of karst aquifers in the global supply of water will decrease with the predicted increase in population, concentrated in urban areas, and improvements in treatment technologies for water from other sources.

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