More protection for groundwater
Jan 29, 2024
Groundwater is a keystone ecosystem. An international study proposes ways to improve its protection to preserve biodiversity and mitigate climate change.
“Groundwater is not only in itself a major ecosystem but is also of critical relevance to ecosystems on the Earth’s surface,” emphasized Professor Robert Reinecke of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), a specialist in Earth system modeling. He made major contributions to the paper, which outlines concepts for improved groundwater protection to reduce the loss of biodiversity and to compensate for the effects of climate change.
A hugh resource for drinking water
Groundwater is the largest unfrozen reserve of freshwater on Earth. It supplies the drinking water needs of almost 50 percent of the world’s urban population. Countries such as Denmark, for example, obtain their drinking water entirely from groundwater. “Throughout the world, some 1,000 cubic kilometers of water are pumped to the Earth’s surface every year.
Sadly, we consume far more than what is naturally replenished,” said Reinecke. About a third of the largest groundwater catchment areas are at risk of depletion, indicating an ongoing decline in groundwater levels. The supply of drinking water for humans clearly is one aspect of the problem. Another aspect is the dependence of ecosystems on groundwater, which has been repeatedly overlooked in global biodiversity conservation agendas so far.
Roughly 52 percent and thus more than half of all surface areas have a medium-to-high interaction with groundwater. This figure increases to 75 percent when excluding deserts and high mountains, regions where groundwater is scarce or the water table can be very deep. “Interaction in this context means that water from rivers and lakes enters the groundwater while groundwater, in its turn, rises to the surface and feeds wetlands, rivers, and other kinds of surface water areas.” Reinecke adds that groundwater is also a valuable habitat for thousands of different subterranean creatures, including cavefish, blind eels, and transparent shrimp.
A habitat, not just a resource
As the researchers stated in their report published in Global Change Biology: “Disregarding the importance of groundwater as an ecosystem ignores its critical role in preserving surface biomes. To foster timely global conservation of groundwater, we propose elevating the concept of keystone species into the realm of ecosystems, claiming groundwater as a keystone ecosystem that influences the integrity of many dependent ecosystems.”
51 researchers from various countries – from Australia to India and the Philippines, from Italy and Finland to Brazil and Canada – participated in the study. With regard to German law, Robert Reinecke points out that groundwater is not yet defined as a habitat under the German Federal Nature Conservation Act but only as a resource and is thus not subject to the corresponding protection.
“We need to change this very urgently,” emphasized Reinecke, citing the statistics collected by the German Environment Agency (UBA) that show that the quality of approximately 32 percent of all groundwater bodies in Germany is poor because of chemical contamination. The main causes of this are nitrate levels and pollution by pesticides.
The researchers propose eight key themes to design a science-policy integrated groundwater conservation agenda. As given ecosystems above and below the ground intersect at many levels, it is essential to consider groundwater as a vital element determining the health of our planet – to mitigate the loss of biodiversity and provide a counterbalance to climate change.
“Water is indispensable to life on Earth. If we don’t pay sufficient attention to the ecological integrity of the freshwater resources of our planet, we not only put the sustainability of whole ecosystems at risk but we also jeopardize our own way of life,” concluded Reinecke.
More News and Articles
Feb 21, 2024
Following the devastating flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle in 2023, Watercare is acknowledging the ongoing recovery efforts one year on.
Feb 19, 2024
Our panel of international experts examines how utilities can embrace a global outlook when it comes to security.
Feb 16, 2024
The Silver Creek Water Corporation in southern Indiana manages millions of gallons of water, over hilly terrain, for 20,000 people. Over several decades, the utility has deployed technology from Xylem’s Sensus brand to remotely manage meters, prevent water loss and …
Feb 14, 2024
As the underground grows more crowded, the industry is under pressure to deliver highly accurate installations through a web of existing infrastructure.
Feb 12, 2024
In a new study, scientists at Heriot-Watt University have discovered a sustainable method to produce green hydrogen, a type of renewable fuel, using wastewater from the distilling industry. This new approach not only addresses the global challenge of water scarcity …
Feb 09, 2024
The UK water sector should give more focus to the themes of delivering resilient infrastructure systems and protecting and enhancing natural systems, according to a survey about the UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy.
Feb 07, 2024
Drinking water scarcity is a global issue, including in Sweden, where it’s also used for crop irrigation and various industrial operations. This practice is neither sustainable nor efficient. Hence, MDU has launched an innovative research project aimed at developing efficient …
Feb 05, 2024
Industrial companies and commercial building owners wanting to reduce waste to improve cost efficiency and save water, must become smarter in their operations, writes Paul Hartley, chief commercial officer, Ovarro
Feb 02, 2024
New online training course in the renovation section of the e-learning platform: Lining with Cured-In-Place Pipes (CIPP). The flexible remote seminar comprises units about basics, proceudures, installation of UV CIPP, final work, and spirally-wound lining. One section was developed with …
Feb 02, 2024
The Watercare network investigation team are currently assessing wastewater pipes in Auckland suburb Mangere East, New Zealand.
Jan 31, 2024
Tunnel boring machines Daphne and Beatrice are preparing to relaunch at the Sydney Metro West site at The Bays, New South Wales.
Jan 25, 2024
Digital water technologies have the potential to create resilient water utilities capable of responding to unpredictable weather patterns, says Adam Wood, chief product officer, InfoTiles.