During the past few decades, the heavy groundwater over-pumping, a practice adopted in order to cope with an increasing demand for domestic and irrigation purposes or to mitigate drought effects, has resulted in the depletion of almost all inland aquifers. Seawater intrusion is also a major problem in many coastal aquifers (13 out of 19 groundwater bodies, i.e. 68%, are at risk from over-pumping).
The overexploitation of groundwater resources can be mainly attributed to the lack of coordination in the existing groundwater management framework, which, in turn, leads to ineffective and conflicting decision making processes, social pressures from user groups during the process of borehole permit issuing, and in the non-strict enforcement of penalties and sanctions. The present inequality between agricultural users supplied by public infrastructure and those solely depending on private boreholes encourages further overexploitation and mismanagement of aquifers, especially when an increase in public water supply tariffs is introduced. The current problem is exacerbated by the reduced natural recharge of many riverbed aquifers, due to the construction of large hydraulic schemes and dams, which did not adequately consider downstream impacts. Furthermore, the strong involvement of public authorities in the construction and management of infrastructure impacted on the level of involvement of farmers in the development and management of irrigation schemes, and fostered their adherence to traditional, water-intensive cropping patterns and groundwater extraction.