Groundwater provides water even during periods of lower than average rainfall, when surface waters dry up. This resilient resource can nevertheless fail if rainfall is reduced over a long period.
We are working to better understand how groundwater droughts occur and the impacts they have on humans and the environment.
In developing countries where communities are particularly reliant on groundwater, groundwater droughts can cost people their livelihoods, and even their lives.
Groundwater drought is the sustained and extensive occurrence of below average availability of groundwater.
Aquifers in the UK are usually replenished with water during the winter months, so groundwater droughts may develop if there is reduced rainfall over one or successive winters. Groundwater drought can be exacerbated by high demand for water during unusually hot or particularly dry summers.
Groundwater droughts are marked by lower than average water levels in aquifers, borehole and wells, and by reduced flows to groundwater-fed rivers and wetlands.
Groundwater is an important part of the UK's water supply. It is generally more resilient to drought than surface water due to the relatively slow response of groundwater to changes in rainfall.
At times of surface water drought groundwater becomes a critical national resource. As well as providing domestic, agricultural and industrial water supplies, groundwater supports ecologically important flows in many of our rivers during episodes of drought.
We have been researching groundwater drought in the UK and internationally for decades:
Contact Dr John Bloomfield for further information.