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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:

Groundwater world water day infographic

Infographic text:

Freshwater is vital to life and economies worldwide. Yet, what we see on the surface is only a tiny fraction of the freshwater available. 

6x
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 
  • Contamination
    Pesticides/nitrate retention 
  • 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 

 

 

Sources: 

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).