Today is World Water Day and this year’s theme is Making the invisible visible, with a special emphasis on the importance of groundwater, which accounts for nearly 99% of the freshwater on the planet. Only through sustainable management of this precious resource is it possible to provide drinking water for future generations, according to the United Nations Water and Climate Coalition.
Groundwater provides half of the water used for domestic use by the global population, including drinking water for the vast majority of the rural population that is not connected to supply systems. About 25% of irrigation water is groundwater. Nevertheless, the importance of this natural resource is often undervalued and poorly understood; water is mismanaged and abused, according to the UN.
Nearly half of the world’s population is facing severe water scarcity, at least for some part of the year
Nearly half of the world’s population faces severe water scarcity for at least some part of the year, while around 2.2 billion people currently do not have access to fresh drinking water. Due to climate change affecting rainfall and the overall water circles on the planet, this situation is projected to worsen further.
Less water for agriculture and flood threats
Due to the retreat of glaciers and the melting of permafrost, hydrological changes are approaching the point of no return, UN warns. A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) points to the scale of the impending water crisis and the enormous challenges ahead in managing this resource.
The amount of water generated by snow melting will decrease. It is the main source of irrigation in some parts of the world. The loss of glacier mass will further reduce the availability of water in agriculture and the operation of hydroelectric power plants, and the supply of cities and settlements in the medium and long term.
The loss of glacier mass will further reduce the availability of water in agriculture, as well as for the operation of hydroelectric power plants
Changes in water circulation, as well as weather extremes, will negatively affect freshwater ecosystems. At the same time, direct flood damage will increase with each fraction of the degree of temperature rise, the IPCC warns.
The significance of water resources is increasing
According to the latest IPCC report, adaptation to water-related risks and impacts accounts for the majority of all documented climate change adaptation policies. However, risk is also posed by poorly managed adaptation measures, which can be counterproductive. For instance, irrigation projects can reduce the risk of drought but at the same time accelerate the depletion of groundwater and increase soil salinization.
Risk is also posed by poorly managed adaptation measures, which can be counterproductive
Groundwater is also affected by pollution from fertilizers and pesticides in intensive agriculture, toxic chemicals in a poorly regulated industry, and sewerage from poorly managed sanitation.
The importance of groundwater will only increase due to the growing demand for water in all sectors and the variations and unpredictability of atmospheric precipitation and rainfall patterns.
The UN World Water Development Report 2022 notes that understanding the potential of groundwater requires concerted efforts in the management and sustainable use of this resource. Groundwater is crucial in the fight against poverty, food and water security and accessibility, and the resilience of society, the economy, and communities to climate change.
Healthy rivers for healthy groundwater
The Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign highlights the connection between healthy ecosystems in rivers and groundwater. The rivers are with a system of groundwater in constant exchange. The water returns to the river, purified, to which the groundwater ecosystem contributes.
“This healthy connection between groundwater and rivers can be affected by the deterioration of rivers. If rivers are channelized or dammed, for instance, this can damage groundwater biodiversity and consequentially affect the quality of the water,” the campaign said.
Save the Blue Heart of Europe: Watercourses are threatened by over 3,500 hydroelectric projects, which can threaten groundwater resources
For healthy rivers, it is necessary to protect the unique status of groundwater biodiversity and vice versa. The campaign for the protection of rivers in Balkans added that watercourses are threatened by more than 3,500 dam projects, saying it can greatly threaten groundwater resources and the availability of drinking water for local communities.