Groundwater in Pakistan’s Indus basin: present and future prospects

Groundwater is arguably the most poorly understood water resource in Pakistan a country in which matters of water resources are hotly debated on a regular basis. Groundwater has the potential to be the most reliable water resource for Pakistan, providing a buffer against the unpredictability of climate change and the failure of infrastructure designed to deliver surface water. The Indus basin groundwater aquifer in Pakistan holds in storage at least eighty times the volume of fresh water held in the country’s three biggest dams. In the 1960s, large-scale extraction from this underground storage began and has expanded to become an essential input to agriculture and the backbone of domestic water provision. Yet in 2020, Pakistan is on the brink of a lengthy and severe groundwater crisis. Pakistan lacks a comprehensive, reliable system for measuring groundwater extractions and their impact on the resource base. In the face of rising population, the effects of climate change, and the considerable natural lag in groundwater response to management interventions, the failure to tackle these challenges is already impairing national water security and drinking water quality. It was concluded that the lack of good-quality, long-term groundwater data in Pakistan’s Indus basin greatly complicates the task of numerical modeling and reduces the reliability of the results.