The concept of sustainable development was brought to the forefront in 1987 by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. The Brundtland Commission, as it came to be known, broadly defined sustainable development as that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The recent California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act defines sustainable groundwater management as a basin operated in such a way so as not to cause “undesirable results,” such as chronic depletion of groundwater, seawater intrusion, or land subsidence. The definition used in U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1186, Sustainability of Ground-Water Resources, seems to be commonly accepted, that is, “development and use of groundwater resources to meet current and future beneficial uses without causing unacceptable environmental or socioeconomic consequences.”
NGWA consensus definition
Groundwater sustainability is the development and use of groundwater resources to meet current and future beneficial uses without causing unacceptable environmental or socioeconomic consequences. (USGS Circular 1186.)
The concept of resilience is commonly used in ecological science where it encompasses attributes such as the ability of a system to resist long-term damage and the time taken to recover from a perturbation. Concern about climate change is the driving force behind the increasingly common use of the term in water resources. A good discussion of resilience with respect to groundwater is in the following article: Foster, S., and MacDonald, A. 2014. The “water security” dialogue: why it needs to be better informed about groundwater. Hydrogeology Journal 22: 1489-1492. Note that resilience can apply to water resources rather than just groundwater.
Resilience is the capacity of a groundwater (or water-resources) system to withstand either short-term shocks (e.g., drought) or longer term change (e.g., climate change). When discussing resilience, the timeframe under consideration should be defined. Resilience applies to both water quantity and quality, and may be an important concept as part of groundwater sustainability.
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National Ground Water Association
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(614 898.7791 outside the US)
fax 614 898.7786