Will Jakarta Be The Next Atlantis? Excessive Groundwater Use Resulting From A Failing Piped Water Network

Nicola Colbran
Norwegian Centre for Human Rights,
PO Box 6706 St Olavs Plass,
NO-0130 Oslo,


This article examines the connection between a failing piped water network and excessive groundwater use in Jakarta. It discusses the political history of the city's piped water network, which was privatised in 1998, and how privatisation was intended to increase access to clean, safe water for its residents. The article asserts that this has not eventuated, and that tap water remains costly, unreliable and does not provide noticeable benefits when compared with groundwater. The result is that households, industry, businesses, luxury apartment complexes and hotels choose alternative water sources and distribution methods, in particular groundwater. This is having an unsustainable impact on groundwater levels and Jakarta 's natural environment, causing significant land subsidence, pollution and salinisation of aquifers, and increased levels of flooding. The effect is so severe that the World Bank has predicted much of Jakarta will be inundated by seawater in 2025, rendering one third of the city uninhabitable and displacing millions. The article concludes by discussing and assessing the steps the government has taken to address excessive and unlicensed groundwater use. These steps include new regulations on groundwater, a public awareness campaign on the importance of groundwater and a commitment to improve the raw water supplied to the piped water network. However, the article observes that the government is yet to develop long term policies for improvement of the network itself. The question therefore remains, has the government done enough, or will groundwater use continue unabated making Jakarta the next lost city of Atlantis?


Excessive exploitation, flooding, groundwater, Jakarta, land subsistence, legal and policy reform, piped water, privatisation, salinisation, water pollution.


lead-journal.org             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893