Policy objectives

Photograph of a small child drinking a glass of water

Photograph of the River Bourne, Hampshire: groundwater baseflow is essential to provide high quality river flows

This project forms part of the BGS Core Programme. It is a collaborative project with, and part funded by, the Environment Agency. It also runs parallel with a European Programme (BaSeLiNe) with partners from nine countries: Natural Baseline Quality of European Groundwaters: A Basis For Aquifer Management.

At present there is no common approach in the UK or across Europe to define baseline quality of groundwater, which makes up nearly 70 per cent of drinking water (Figure 1) in Europe (33 per cent in England and Wales).

Such a standard is needed to be able to define scientifically the natural variation in groundwater quality and to assess whether or not anthropogenic pollution is taking place.

Existing limits may be breached by entirely natural processes. New directives/standards are currently being drawn up by the EU for water quality and drinking waters, the Water Framework Directive, to replace those created in the 1970's and 1980's.

Groundwater baseflow is also a high quality water which helps to maintain the status of surface waters and, in some cases, dominates the quality of rivers and streams (Figure 2).

The main outputs will be:

  • Baseline studies in 36 areas of England and Wales over five years (1999-2004).
  • A series of reference documents and data for each chosen area to a format agreed between the Environment Agency and BGS.
  • A national overview of the baseline groundwater quality of England and Wales.
  • Dissemination of the results within the Environment Agency and through popular channels including publicity literature, scientific publications, seminars and meetings.