19 Oct 2023
 | 19 Oct 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

HESS Opinions: The unsustainable use of groundwater conceals a “Day Zero”

Camila Alvarez-Garreton, Juan Pablo Boisier, Rene Garreaud, Javier González, Roberto Rondanelli, Eugenia Gayó, and Mauricio Zambrano-Bigiarini

Abstract. Water scarcity is a pressing global issue driven by increasing water demands and changing climatic conditions. Based on novel estimates of water availability and water use, we examine the challenges and risks associated with groundwater (GW) withdrawals, focusing on the case of central-north Chile (27−35º S), where extreme water stress conditions prevail. As total water uses within a basin approaches the renewable freshwater resources, the dependence on GW reserves in unsustainable ways intensifies. This overuse has consequences that extend beyond mere resource depletion, manifesting into environmental degradation, societal conflict, and economic costs. We argue that the “Day Zero” scenario, often concealed by the hidden nature of GW resources, calls for a reconsideration of water allocation rules and a broader recognition of the long-term implications of unsustainable GW use. Our results offer insights for regions worldwide facing similar water scarcity challenges and emphasize the importance of proactive and sustainable water management strategies.

Camila Alvarez-Garreton et al.

Status: open (until 14 Dec 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-245', Anonymous Referee #1, 10 Nov 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2023-245', Anonymous Referee #2, 30 Nov 2023 reply

Camila Alvarez-Garreton et al.

Camila Alvarez-Garreton et al.


Total article views: 422 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
331 86 5 422 1 3
  • HTML: 331
  • PDF: 86
  • XML: 5
  • Total: 422
  • BibTeX: 1
  • EndNote: 3
Views and downloads (calculated since 19 Oct 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 19 Oct 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 404 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 404 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 30 Nov 2023
Short summary

This opinion paper reflects on the risks of overusing groundwater savings to supply permanent water use requirements. Using data from Chile, we reveal how groundwater is being overused, causing ecological and socio-economic impacts and concealing a 'Day Zero' scenario. Our argument underscores the need for reformed water allocation rules and sustainable management, shifting from a perception of groundwater as an unlimited source to a finite and vital one.