Indonesia Contributes to 60% of Total Groundwater Extraction Globally

Recognizing the full potential of groundwater and the imperative need for sustainable management

Written by Rika Andini

Indonesia is one of the largest groundwater countries in the world, with an estimated 125 million people relying on groundwater for their daily needs. The country contributes 60% of the total groundwater extraction in the world, along with other nations such as Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey.1

According to the United Nations, groundwater accounts for approximately 99% of all liquid freshwater on Earth, making it a crucial resource for human societies around the world.2 Groundwater provides numerous social, economic, and environmental benefits and opportunities. It is a vital source of drinking water for millions of people, particularly in rural areas and developing countries where surface water sources are limited or contaminated. 

About 25% of groundwater is also used extensively for agricultural irrigation, supporting the production of food and economic growth. Agriculture is a key economic sector in many countries, providing food and employment opportunities, and groundwater plays a vital role in supporting this sector.

The increasing demand for water resources, coupled with climate change impacts, has led to the overexploitation and degradation of groundwater resources, posing significant environmental and socio-economic challenges. Recognizing the full potential of groundwater and implementing sustainable management practices are crucial for ensuring the long-term availability and quality of this critical resource.

Recognizing the full potential of groundwater and implementing sustainable management practices are crucial for ensuring the long-term availability and quality of this critical resource. By adopting sustainable groundwater management practices, we can protect human health, maintain vital ecosystem services, support sustainable agriculture, and enhance the resilience of groundwater resources to climate change impacts. 

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Indonesia's Natural and Artificial Groundwater Sources

Indonesia heavily relies on groundwater as a source of water for various purposes, such as agriculture, industry, and domestic use. According to Wikipedia, the country’s groundwater sources can be classified into two main categories; natural formation groundwater sources and artificial natural formation groundwater sources.3

Most of the natural formation of groundwater in Indonesia comes from rainwater infiltration into the ground. As rainwater falls on the surface, it is either absorbed by the soil or flows on the surface as runoff. Some of the water that is absorbed by the soil slowly moves through the ground until it reaches a depth where it is stored as groundwater. This groundwater has become a vital resource for drinking water, agriculture, and industry. However, before reaching the sea, some of the rainwater that flows on the surface of the ground or in rivers also seeps into the ground and becomes part of the groundwater. 

This process of rainwater infiltration is an essential component of the natural formation of groundwater and is essential for maintaining the replenishment of these resources. Effective management of groundwater resources must consider the role of rainwater infiltration and ensure that it is sustained to maintain the availability of these resources for the long term. 

In addition to natural groundwater sources, artificial groundwater sources can also be created through the use of infiltration wells. These wells are designed to channel clean rainwater into the ground, where it is stored as groundwater. The remaining rainwater that is not absorbed is then discharged into the sea. The primary purpose of making infiltration wells is to reduce surface water flow, which can cause flooding in urban areas. The construction of these wells is a form of civil protection and involves creating simple structures that collect, hold, and absorb surface water into the ground.

Infiltration wells play a crucial role in maintaining the groundwater table and ensuring the availability of groundwater resources for various uses, including drinking water, agriculture, and industry. Furthermore, the use of infiltration wells can help conserve groundwater resources, improve environmental quality, and promote environmental awareness. By allowing for the formation of groundwater, infiltration wells help to overcome water shortages, maintain water balance in soil, reduce surface runoff and soil erosion, and enhance the overall sustainability of water resources.

The Benefits of Groundwater for Human Survival

Groundwater has many benefits for living things, especially for human survival. Here are some of the key benefits of groundwater for human life:


Provides a reliable source of drinking water

Groundwater is an essential source of clean, fresh water that is suitable for human consumption. It provides a reliable supply of water in regions where surface water sources, such as rivers or lakes, are either limited or contaminated. Groundwater is also generally free of contaminants, as it is naturally filtered as it seeps through layers of soil and rock. This makes it a desirable alternative to surface water sources which may be exposed to pollutants and contaminants.

fresh garden vegetables-garden fresh vegetables-vegetable in garden

Supports agricultural production

Groundwater plays a vital role in supporting the growth of crops and livestock. It provides a reliable and consistent source of water for irrigation, which is essential for crop production in many regions of the world. Groundwater is also important for sustaining livestock, as it provides a clean and abundant source of drinking water. Additionally, groundwater can help to mitigate the impacts of drought, which can severely impact crop yields and livestock productivity.

Helps maintain public health

Access to safe and clean groundwater is essential for maintaining public health and preventing the spread of waterborne diseases. Groundwater is naturally filtered as it passes through layers of soil and rock, which can remove harmful pathogens and contaminants from the water. As a result, groundwater is generally considered a safer and more reliable source of drinking water than surface water sources such as rivers or lakes, which are more prone to contamination from human and animal activities. Furthermore, groundwater can help to reduce the risk of water-related health problems, such as diarrhea, cholera, and other diseases that are commonly associated with contaminated water sources. However, it is important to note that groundwater sources can also become contaminated, and that the quality of groundwater can vary depending on a variety of factors.

Supports industrial and commercial activities

Many industrial and commercial activities depend on groundwater as a key resource for their operations. Groundwater can be a reliable and cost-effective source of water for industrial and commercial purposes, such as manufacturing, mining, and energy production. For example, in manufacturing, groundwater may be used in the production process as a coolant or solvent, or for cleaning and washing. In mining, groundwater may be pumped to help extract minerals or to manage water levels in underground tunnels. Additionally, groundwater can be used for energy production, such as geothermal power plants that use the earth's heat to generate electricity.

cracked dry land-dry cracked land-land without water

Reduces the impact of droughts

During periods of drought, groundwater can serve as a crucial buffer against water shortages, helping to maintain the water supply for human and environmental needs. Unlike surface water sources, which may dry up during periods of low rainfall, groundwater can be stored in underground aquifers, providing a reliable and consistent source of water. In many regions of the world, groundwater is used as a backup supply during droughts, helping to meet the water demands of households, farms, and industries.

Recognizing the challenges water resource management

Despite its importance, groundwater faces several challenges that can negatively impact its quality and availability. One of the major challenges is over-extraction, which occurs when the rate of groundwater pumping exceeds the rate of natural recharge. Over-extraction can cause far-reaching consequences, damaging both the environment and human society. When too much water is pumped from an aquifer, the water table drops as a result of increased demand and reduced supply. This has significant implications for our future way of life, as we rely on groundwater to irrigate crops and provide drinking water for communities.

Not only does this reduce available resources for future generations, but it can also contribute to the spread of diseases due to contaminated groundwater. We must carefully manage our extraction of groundwater in order to ensure that everyone has access to enough clean water in the years ahead.

Pollution is another significant challenge facing groundwater, as it can come from a variety of sources such as industrial and agricultural activities, urbanization, and inadequate wastewater management. Chemicals and contaminants can leach into groundwater through soil and rock, or from surface water that percolates into the ground. 

Polluted groundwater can pose significant health risks, as it can contain harmful pathogens, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals. Exposure to polluted groundwater can lead to a variety of health problems, including gastrointestinal illness, liver and kidney damage, and cancer. Additionally, polluted groundwater can reduce the quality of water resources and limit their availability for use. This can have negative impacts on agriculture, industry, and other activities that rely on groundwater as a source of water.


Additionally, climate change can also impact groundwater resources by altering precipitation patterns and increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods. These changes can affect the recharge rates and the availability of groundwater. For example, changes in precipitation patterns can lead to lower rates of groundwater recharge, as less water percolates into the ground. This can result in a decline in the water table and a reduction in the availability of groundwater for human and environmental use. 

On the other hand, increased rainfall and flooding can cause surface water runoff and reduce the amount of water that can recharge groundwater systems. In some cases, climate change can also cause seawater intrusion, particularly in coastal areas. Rising sea levels can push seawater into coastal aquifers, leading to saltwater contamination and a reduction in the availability of freshwater resources.

Sustainable Management Practices for Groundwater

UNESCO recognizes that sustainable groundwater development and resource management depend heavily on knowledge of aquifer systems, groundwater recharge and discharge rates, and groundwater storage. Groundwater is a complex and dynamic resource that can be challenging to manage effectively, given the many factors that can impact its availability and quality.4

To ensure sustainable management of groundwater, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the hydrological processes that affect it. Groundwater is a valuable and finite resource that requires sustainable management practices to ensure its long-term availability. Here are  sustainable management practices for groundwater:

water natural resource-natural source of water-resources of water-sources of fresh water

Implementing groundwater monitoring programs

Groundwater monitoring is a crucial practice for managing groundwater resources. It allows for the collection of data on water levels, quality, and other important parameters to assess the health of groundwater systems. This data can help to identify potential issues early, such as declining water levels or increasing levels of contaminants, allowing for proactive management decisions to be made. Groundwater monitoring programs can help to ensure that groundwater resources remain healthy and available for current and future generations. By understanding the current state of groundwater systems, and monitoring changes over time, decision-makers can make informed choices about sustainable management practices and take action to address issues before they become more significant problems.

water faucet-outdoor faucet-outdoor tap-

Promoting water use efficiency

Groundwater is a valuable natural resource that is critical to many human activities, including agriculture, industry, and households. However, excessive use and over-pumping of groundwater can lead to depletion and other negative environmental impacts. Encouraging the adoption of water-efficient technologies and practices in various sectors is a vital step in reducing the demand for water and ensuring its sustainable use. Water-efficient practices can include measures such as improving irrigation systems, using drought-resistant crops, and implementing rainwater harvesting techniques. By reducing water demand, we can preserve groundwater resources, support ecological systems, and ensure a stable and reliable water supply for future generations.

Implementing groundwater recharge measures

Groundwater recharge measures are essential for sustainable management of groundwater resources. These measures involve various practices that can help replenish groundwater, such as capturing and storing rainwater, and directing surface water to recharge zones. By implementing these measures, we can ensure that groundwater resources are replenished and remain available for future use. The capture and storage of rainwater can be achieved through the construction of rainwater harvesting systems, such as rooftop collection systems or small-scale ponds. Additionally, directing surface water to recharge zones can be achieved through the construction of infiltration basins, swales, and trenches, which allow surface water to slowly infiltrate into the ground and recharge aquifers. These measures can also help to improve water quality by allowing the natural filtration of surface water before it enters groundwater sources.

Promoting sustainable land use practices

Sustainable land use practices are critical for the sustainable management of groundwater resources. These practices involve various measures to reduce water demand and improve the efficiency of water use. For instance, reducing water-intensive crops, such as rice or sugarcane, and replacing them with crops that require less water can help to reduce the demand for groundwater. Similarly, promoting conservation tillage, which involves minimal disturbance of soil, can help to reduce water loss through evaporation and increase water infiltration into the soil. Improving soil health by increasing organic matter content and reducing soil compaction can also improve water retention and reduce the need for irrigation. By implementing these sustainable land use practices, we can reduce the demand for groundwater, ensuring that it is used sustainably and efficiently. In addition, these practices can help to improve soil fertility, support biodiversity, and reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can have negative impacts on groundwater quality.

Groundwater is a vital natural resource that supports many human activities, including agriculture, industry, and households. However, the overuse and mismanagement of groundwater resources can have severe environmental and socio-economic consequences. To prevent these negative impacts, it is crucial to recognize the full potential of groundwater and implement sustainable management practices that prioritize its long-term sustainability. Sustainable management of groundwater involves various measures, such as promoting water use efficiency, implementing groundwater recharge measures, and adopting sustainable land use practices. These practices can help to ensure that groundwater resources are used efficiently and sustainably, supporting ecological systems, reducing water scarcity, and safeguarding the well-being of communities that rely on this critical resource. By recognizing the full potential of groundwater and the imperative for sustainable management, we can ensure that it remains a valuable natural resource for generations to come.

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