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In the Arabian Peninsula, hydrogeological and engineering solutions have failed to solve the severe and worsening problem of unsustainable groundwater abstraction, which threatens rural environments and livelihoods. Conventional western fiscal and regulatory measures to reduce abstractions seem to be impracticable in the present institutional and social contexts. In the region, groundwater rights without volume limitations are distributed mostly among numerous private well owners, and individual interests predominate over a communal imperative for aquifer sustainability. The solution may lie more in modifying the institutional context than in attempting to introduce official controls. This would involve the decentralization of water resources...

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