With groundwater resources increasingly being utilized to fulfil human requirements and the demands seemingly insatiable, the question of sustainability naturally arises. Within the last decade or so, the debate around defining limits to sustainable groundwater use has intensified (Custodio, 2002; see also Llamas and Garrido, Chapter 13; and Turral and Fullagar, Chapter 15, this volume). Basically, there is no clear and unambiguous definition of such a limit, be it designated 'sustainable yield' or 'exploitable groundwater'. However, there is a growing consensus that such a concept is a valuable tool for legitimization, informed discussion and consensus building on management: defining areas where additional groundwater use should be curtailed or where investment in management, rather than development, should be made. There is also a growing recognition that such a concept is not restricted to an assessment of the physical availability of groundwater in a certain area of concern. Equally important is the assessment and reconciliation of the positive and negative impacts of increased utilization on society as well as the environment. Examples where such approaches are taken up more systematically as part of the national groundwater management approaches include countries such as Australia, India and South Africa. The effectiveness of such an approach hinges on its credibility to the stakeholders and decision makers. Furthermore, realizing the dynamics of society and the gradual improvements in information and data availability, the assessments should be ongoing (see Turral and Fullagar, Chapter 15, this volume).
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