Story | 22 Mar, 2022

Groundwater: invisible treasure of life

Groundwater is invisible, but its presence - or lack of - is felt everywhere. Today on 22 March 2022, the international community celebrates World Water Day with a special focus on groundwater, source of life and survival.

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Photo: ©Shutterstock/Abimbola

The UN World Water Development Report 2022 “Groundwater - making the invisible visible” was launched during the opening ceremony of the 9th World Water Forum (9WWF) in Dakar, Senegal on 21 March 2022.

Groundwater – found underground in aquifers, rocks and soils – makes up over 95% of all liquid freshwater on earth, yet is being over-used in many regions of the world, abstracted faster than it can be recharged by rain and snow. Groundwater pollution is another challenge which can take decades or even centuries to fix.  

Making the invisible visible, requires research and investment. Not enough data is available on groundwater, failing to harness this vital resource. Prioritizing, protecting and sustainably using groundwater will be central to adapting to climate change whilst meeting the needs of a growing global population.

"The challenge with groundwater also lies in the lack of awareness and communication around the need to preserve and protect groundwater systems", said James Dalton, Head IUCN Water and Land Management Team. "A step change is needed to improve groundwater literacy across all water agencies and to build the capacity of the groundwater community itself to expand knowledge, awareness, and investment in groundwater".

Groundwater crosses borders, just like climate change. Working together to improve the way transboundary groundwater resources are shared requires careful balancing of different needs but also sharing the benefits equitably. During the 9WWF conference, IUCN is presenting the work on transboundary water governance through its BRIDGE (Building River Dialogue and Governance) and PREE (Partenariat Régional sur l’Eau et l’Environnement en Afrique Centrale et Occidentale) projects. See IUCN at WWF9.

Sustainable groundwater management can ensure climate-resilient supplies of water needed to help meet goals for food security, energy development and access to drinking water. It can supply water for sustainable cities and industrialisation. Where groundwater management is sustainable, its potential contributions cross multiple dimensions of sustainable development (see toolkit SPRING).

World Water Day is celebrated each year on 22 March. It is an annual United Nations Observance day, started in 1993, raising awareness to the 2 billion people currently living without access to safe water. A core focus of World Water Day is to inspire action towards Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

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