Facts About Global Groundwater Usage

  • Groundwater is the world’s most extracted raw material with withdrawal rates currently in the estimated range of 982 km3 /year. [1] 
  • About 70% of groundwater withdrawn worldwide is used for agriculture. [2]
  • Groundwater provides almost half of all drinking water worldwide. [3]
  • Globally, about 38% of irrigated lands are equipped for irrigation with groundwater. [4]
  • The total volume of groundwater in the upper 2 km of the Earth’s continental crust (not inclusive of high-latitude North America or Asia) is approximately 22.6 million km3 , of which 0.1 million km3 to 5.0 million km3 is less than 50 years old (judged as “modern” or recently recharged). [5]
  • The volume of modern groundwater is equivalent to a body of water with a depth of about 3 m spread over the continents. [6]

The 15 nations with the largest estimated annual groundwater extractions (2010) [7] are:


The 15 nations with groundwater having the largest share in total annual freshwater withdrawals, ranked by all water use sectors [8]


  1. Margat, J., and J. van der Gun. 2013. Groundwater around the World. CRC Press/Balkema.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Smith, M., K. Cross, M. Paden, and P. Laban. 2016. Spring — Managing groundwater sustainability. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  4. Siebert, S., et al. 2010. Groundwater use for irrigation — a global inventory. Hydrology and Earth Systems Science 14, no. 10: 1863–1880. www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/14/ 1863/2010/doi:10.5194/hess-14-1863-2010.
  5. Gleeson, T., K.M. Befus, S. Jasechko, E. Luijendijk, and M.B. Cardendas. 2016. The global volume and distribution of modern groundwater. Nature Geoscience 9, no. 2: 161-167.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Margat, J., and J. van der Gun. 2013. Groundwater around the World. CRC Press/Balkema
  8. Ibid.