Groundwater is an invisible yet vital source of freshwater worldwide. Learn how it’s found, consumed, and how we can protect it.
Read the groundwater infographic:
Freshwater is vital to life and economies worldwide. Yet, what we see on the surface is only a tiny fraction of the freshwater available.
Increase in global freshwater use over the past 100 years(1)
Where is water used most?(1)
- 69% agriculture
- 19% industry (including energy)
- 12% municipalities
Where is freshwater found?(2)
Only 1% of liquid freshwater is visible!
30% of freshwater is hidden underground
- 1% Surface water (rivers, lakes, wetlands)
- 69% Glaciers & icecaps
- 30% Groundwater (aquifers)
How can we discover groundwater?
- Geophysical surveys
- Airborne and ground-based EM surveys
- ERT surveys
- Borehole drilling
- Soil samples
- Inversion of EM/ERT data
- Groundwater modelling
What threatens global freshwater supplies?
- Saltwater intrusion
- Overdrawing resources
- Natural disasters
- Impacts of climate change
How can we help improve water security?
- Increase understanding of groundwater
- Better management of water resources
- Monitoring of groundwater levels/usage
- More efficient technologies for irrigation
- Wastewater recycling
- Legislation to protect resources
1United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 2022. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2021. Valuing Water. UNESCO, p.12. Available here: https://www.unesco.org/reports/wwdr/2021/en
2U.S. Geological Survey, Water Science School. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/ Data source: Igor Shiklomanov’s chapter “World fresh water resources” in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources. (Numbers are rounded).