Climate change disrupts weather patterns, leading to extreme weather events, unpredictable water availability, exacerbating water scarcity, and contaminating water supplies, affecting the quantity and quality of water needed to survive (Water and the, 2022).
However, the solution to future water crises due to climate change and rising demands may be hiding under our feet.
The UN World Water Development Report 2022 on “Groundwater: Making the invisible visible” says:
“Groundwater accounts for approximately 99% of all liquid fresh water on Earth; groundwater has the potential to provide societies with tremendous social, economic, and environmental benefits and opportunities. Groundwater already provides half of the volume of water withdrawn for domestic use by the global population, including drinking water for the vast majority of the rural population who do not get their water delivered to them via public or private supply systems, and around 25% of all water withdrawn for irrigation.”
An excerpt from Gilbert Houngbou, Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, says:
“As this report makes clear, human activities over-use and pollute groundwater in many places, and in other locations, we do not know how much water is down there. The mismanagement of groundwater, and its frequent abuse, either by contamination or over-exploitation, is a threat to the entire water cycle – and, therefore, a threat to human well-being and the survival of all life.
This year’s United Nations World Water Development Report focuses upon the need to explore and protect groundwater and shows that equitable and sustainable management will be central to surviving and adapting to climate change and meeting the needs of a growing population.”
According to the report, “groundwater is central to the fight against poverty, food and water security, the creation of decent jobs, socio-economic development, and the resilience of societies and economies to climate change. Reliance on groundwater will only increase, mainly due to growing water demand by all sectors combined with increasing variation in rainfall patterns.”
“However, this natural resource is often poorly understood and consequently undervalued, mismanaged, and even abused, rendering it vulnerable to depletion and pollution. In the context of growing water scarcity across many parts of the world, the vast potential of groundwater and the need to manage it sustainably can no longer be overlooked”.
The study “Divergent effects of climate change on future groundwater availability in key mid-latitude aquifers” points out climate change’s influence on groundwater systems.
For instance, it can affect the water cycle of soil infiltration, deeper percolation, and hence groundwater recharge. Higher temperatures also increase evaporation over the land, limiting the amount of water to replenish groundwater (Wu, Lo, and Wada, 2020).
Inversely, the impacts of human activities on groundwater are due to groundwater pumping and the indirect effects of irrigation and land-use changes, the study says.
The 2022 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report (UN WWDR 2022) entitled ‘Groundwater: Making the invisible visible’ describes the challenges and opportunities associated with the development, management, and governance of groundwater worldwide.
The report presents critical solutions to unlocking the groundwater’s full potential:
- Collect data. There is insufficient groundwater data, and groundwater monitoring is often a “neglected area.” There is a need to improve groundwater data through the help of private sectors like the oil, gas, and mining industries which already possess these data, information, and knowledge on the composition of the deeper domains underground, including aquifers. Private companies should be encouraged to share these data with the public sector.
- Strengthen environmental regulation. Governments must assume an active role as resource custodians for better management of water resources and ensure that access and profits from it are distributed equitably. That water will be available for future generations. Groundwater pollution is irreversible, so governments should prevent this from happening by implementing better land use and appropriate environmental regulations.
- Reinforce human, material, and financial resources. What hampers effective groundwater management in many countries is the lack of groundwater professionals in institutions and all levels of governments, insufficient mandates, and support of groundwater departments or agencies. Hence, the commitment of governments to support institutional capacity related to groundwater is pivotal.
Watch a short video of this report.
To read more, click the link provided in the “Source” section below:
Water and the global climate crisis: 10 things you should know. (2022 March 18). UNICEF. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/stories/water-and-climate-change-10-things-you-should-know
The United Nations World Water Development Report 2022: Groundwater: Making the invisible visible. (2022, March 21). Reliefweb. Retrieved from https://reliefweb.int/report/world/united-nations-world-water-development-report-2022-groundwater-making-invisible-visible
UN World Water Development Report 2022. (2022, March 21). United Nations. Retrieved from https://www.unwater.org/publications/un-world-water-development-report-2022/
Wu, WY., Lo, MH., Wada, Y. et al. Divergent effects of climate change on future groundwater availability in key mid-latitude aquifers. Nat Commun 11, 3710 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17581-y