Groundwater provides drinking water for over two billion people around the world and is essential for irrigating 40 per cent of the world’s crops, as well as supporting many other industrial uses. Despite this, it continues to be poorly understood, lacks effective management and is subject to significant pollution pressures. As a result, it has become an unsustainable resource in many areas of the world, even though the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise water as being key to sustainable development. SDG 6 is to Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Water also underpins many of the other SDGs.
We have a long history of international groundwater research and developing tools for groundwater management. Our projects span a wide range of subject areas, reflecting our breadth of expertise and the range of issues facing many in the world. They include:
- mapping groundwater resources
- helping provide the tools and training needed to develop groundwater resources
- assessing and understanding natural groundwater quality issues and implications for health, such as fluoride and arsenic
- helping to monitor groundwater pollution and find ways to protect groundwater resources
- researching how groundwater resources are affected by droughts, changing land use and climate change
- working in interdisciplinary teams with socio-economists and political scientists to ensure that solutions are effective and sustainable
- collating and sharing data and information, e.g. Africa Groundwater Atlas
Some examples of our research are provided below but more can be found on our dedicated groundwater website.
Africa Groundwater Atlas and Literature Archive
The Africa Groundwater Atlas, compiled by the BGS, contains information of the hydrogeology of 51 African countries and provides links to a wider body of knowledge, including the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive. This archive is a searchable online database that catalogues nearly 7000 references for literature about groundwater in Africa, with thousands of links to free-to-download full text documents and abstracts.
The archive is funded by NERC’s UPGro research programme and the BGS National Capability programme.
Groundwater and health
We have been working with the charity WaterAid to characterise the quality of groundwater in the 28 countries around the world in which WaterAid works. Understanding natural groundwater quality is just as important as investigating pollution, as some natural constituents in the water, such as arsenic, fluoride and molybdenum, can be toxic and a risk to health. In recognition of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set limits for drinking water for these and a wide range of other substances.
We produced a series of water quality factsheets for WaterAid by country and by element. These are used to inform the siting of new boreholes and water supplies to minimise the risk to health and highlight where there might be health concerns from existing drinking water sources.
Smedley, P L. 2008. Sources and distribution of arsenic in groundwater and aquifers. In Arsenic in Groundwater: A World Problem. Appelo, T (editor). International Association of Hydrogeologists Publication 5, 4–32. (Utrecht, Netherlands: IAH.)
If you want to discover more then please contact Alan MacDonald.
Harare’s thirst for clean drinking water
Researchers from BGS and partners in Zimbabwe report on the urban water supply challenge in the capital city, Harare.
Island groundwater management in the Philippines: part one — Boracay
BGS’s Andy Barkwith and Andy McKenzie travelled to the Philippines to undertake collaborative research and outreach with Filipino partners for a national hydrological modelling project. In this first blog, they discuss the first week of work on small islands.
World Water Day 2023: groundwater photo stories
A showcase of groundwater use from around the world highlighting how developing groundwater has benefited the lives of many people.
A tale of two groundwaters
Why the United Nations 2023 Water Conference needs to know more about groundwater.
A PhD in Peru: a country of contrasts
PhD student Tom Gribbin explains his work on water security in the Peruvian ‘water towers’.
Hidden from view: a century of rising groundwater levels in India and Pakistan
Groundwater storage increased in Pakistan and north-west India for most of the 20th century, a new study shows. So why is there a water crisis?
World Water Day 2022
Groundwater: how BGS is helping to make the invisible visible
BGS and WaterAid publish new research on groundwater resilience
Most African countries have enough groundwater reserves to face at least five years of drought, new research reveals
New method offers rapid monitoring of contamination in drinking water
Scientists have developed an innovative new method to monitor the risk of contamination in drinking water with immediate results, enabling global communities to respond rapidly and help reduce exposure to deadly diarrhoeal diseases.
Sustainable groundwater management underpins food security in South Asia
The most intensively cultivated areas of South Asia are crucial for regional food security and have become global hotspots of groundwater exploitation.
World Water Day
Jade Ward shares an overview of the ways in which groundwater resources are helping to address worldwide issues such as the global water crisis, waterborne disease and climate change adaptation.
You may also be interested in
Africa Groundwater Atlas
The Africa Groundwater Atlas is an online resource providing an introduction to the groundwater resources of 51 African countries, and a gateway to further information.
Nitrate time bomb
Nitrate leaching from soils can have negative effects ecosystems and human health.
Resilience of Asian cities
Our research aims to improve city resilience by integrating geology into urban subsurface planning and urban-catchment science in India and south-east Asia
Groundwater challenges in India and Pakistan
We are reconstructing a century of groundwater level records in order to understand the long-term behaviour of groundwater in north-west India and Punjab in Eastern Pakistan.
Philippine groundwater outlook
The PhiGO project seeks to undertake assessments of population and climate change impacts on regional groundwater resources and translate these into usable forecasts of flood and drought risk.