Groundwater in the spotlight on World Water Day

For the first time, the annual United Nations World Water Day today focuses specifically on groundwater, with the theme Groundwater: making the invisible visible highlighting that this large and precious resource is hidden and underappreciated.

Groundwater makes up 99% of the world’s liquid fresh water, supplies about half of the world’s population with its main source of drinking water via wells and springs, and meets over 40% of the water demand from agriculture. It also keeps our rivers flowing during dry periods.

Yet water policy makers and planners are often unaware of the importance of this resource.

Dr Bruce Misstear, Fellow Emeritus in Trinity’s School of Engineering, is one of the contributors to the 2022 UN World Water Development Report, which was launched yesterday at the opening ceremony of the World Water Forum in Senegal.

The limestone spring that supplies the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Photo: Bruce Misstear.

Bruce has more than 40 years’ experience working as a hydrogeologist, both in academia and industry, including groundwater projects in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. He is also a former Secretary General of the International Association of Hydrogeologist.

He said:

“The lack of attention paid to groundwater by many decision makers means that the full potential of the resource has not been realised, especially with regard to combatting climate change. The enormous storage capacities of many of the world’s aquifers provide an opportunity to alleviate problems arising from the vulnerability of more variable surface sources to climate impacts.”

However, to achieve this, Bruce says:

“The resource needs to be properly managed. Groundwater usage and quality must be monitored carefully, which is not currently the case in many regions, including to assess increased pressures from industrial and agricultural contaminants, and actions must be put in place to protect the resource.

“All stakeholders need to be involved, from the householders and farmers who operate their individual wells, to the hydrogeologists and engineers involved in designing and protecting the wells, and to the water managers and other decision-makers.”

Children pumping a well in Uganda. Photo: Bruce Misstear.

With the global climate crisis posing more problems each year, coordinated actions will be required so that groundwater can achieve its full potential in helping meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Pollardstown Fen in County Kildare – an example of a groundwater dependent ecosystem. Photo: Bruce Misstear.

 

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