We hope you have a great world water day! May you sip a cool, refreshing glass of renewable groundwater and feel excited to make the world a better, more sustainable place.
Authored by Viviana Re, Marie Curie Research Fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy
Sustainability, integrated water resources management, climate change, groundwater governance. These are some of the currently trending topics in hydrogeology, as reflected by their widespread use as keywords in recently published literature. Indeed, hydrogeologists are at the forefront of guaranteeing the long-term sustainability of aquifers worldwide. But how can they assure that the outcomes of their investigations are really translated into effective science-based management practices? How can they make sure that their work really reaches water end-users and all those eventually affected by new water quality and quantity control measures?
Possibly the most effective way is to commit themselves to bridging gaps between science and society.
This is the aim of “socio-hydrogeology”, a new approach to groundwater investigations promoting the incorporation of the social dimension into hydrogeological studies willing to provide management practices with better support (Re, 2015).
Socio-hydrogeology proposes the coupling of robust hydrogeological investigations with a more comprehensive assessment of the socio-economic implications of the (ground)water problems in question. In agreement with the general definition of socio-hydrology—the science of people and water (Sivapalan et al. 2011)—socio-hydrogeology aims not only at studying the mutual relations between people and groundwater (i.e. the impact of human activities on the baseline characteristics of an aquifer and the impact of groundwater—its quality, its presence and scarcity—on human well-being and life), but more generally to include social dimensions in hydrogeological investigations. This means ensuring that the results of scientific investigations are not only based on real needs and local knowledge, but are also adequately disseminated to groundwater users .
Hydrogeologists can be leaders in socio-hydrogeology. They can advocate for groundwater management and protection. They can promote bottom-up approaches that embed local know-how into management strategies. As many hydrogeologists spend substantial time in the field, they are generally the first point of contact for well holders, farmers and other groundwater users. They may therefore act as mediators between theory and practice, or between the problem and the (potential) proposed solution to issues of sustainability and pollution. This is why allocating specific time to structured interaction with the relevant stakeholders and water users prior to and during hydrogeological investigations, they can maximize the use of hydrogeological information and outcomes, which are obtained, in the best cases, with the best available technology and tools.
This newly established field allows hydrogeologists to focus on mutual relations between groundwater and society and to foster both ‘horizontal’ (e.g. between state and non-state actors or across sectors such as agriculture or energy) and ‘vertical’ (between various levels) cooperation. This novel approach presents a standardized baseline method focused around hydrogeologists, which is easy to understand, flexible, not too time-consuming, and offers the chance to implement preliminary public engagement with limited effort.
In this framework, the Bir Al-Nas (Bottom-up IntegRated Approach for sustainabLe grouNdwater mAnagement in rural areaS*) approach is proposed as an initial attempt to put the concept of socio-hydrogeology into practice through hydrogeological and social analysis, the latter performed by means of a social network analysis and structured interviews with the people involved in the groundwater monitoring network. Bir Al-Nas is currently being tested and implemented in the Grombalia Basin (Tunisia), chosen as representative of the issues shared by most of the coastal aquifers in arid/semi-arid regions (i.e., aquifer pollution and salinization, water overexploitation, saline-water intrusion, and agricultural return flow).
*Research supported by a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship within the EU 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IOF, project reference 327287).
–Featured image by Chiara Tringali (2014)
Authored by: Grant Ferguson – Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil & Geological Engineering at the University Saskatchewan
Groundwater makes up a large fraction of the Earth’s freshwater but that represents only a part of groundwater resources. Large volumes of groundwater are saline, with some reaching salinities of over ten times that of seawater. Brackish water is an intriguing part of the spectrum of groundwater resources, sitting just beyond the water quality salinity requirements for potable water. Many water scarce regions are considering the use of brackish groundwater, sometimes as a potable water resource via desalination or for industrial use where quality requirements are less restrictive. Recent studies by International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre and the United States Geological Survey showed that these resources are relatively accessible in many areas around the globe. For example, significant brackish groundwater is present at less than 500 feet below ground surface throughout most of the Great Plains.
Using brackish water certainly increases the amount of groundwater in storage that is usable, however what remains unclear is how this fits into the construct of groundwater management. Following ideas promoted by John Bredehoeft, pumped groundwater must be balanced by either an increase in recharge, a decrease in discharge or reduction of storage. Typically, brackish water systems do not receive large amounts of recharge, nor are they well connected to surface water bodies. This suggests that most brackish water developments are mainly supported by withdrawal of water from storage and that the development of brackish water resources at large scales over longer time frames will result in groundwater depletion problems.
Given this possibility, is development of brackish groundwater resources advisable?
Some situations — such as auxiliary water supplies used during times of drought or high demand, and perhaps most notably for some regions, oil and gas development — only demand groundwater supplies for finite duration — for periods of months to a few years. Both the Province of Alberta and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have recently promoted such initiatives in oil and gas producing regions in Canada. However, the oil and gas industry has been using brackish and saline water in Canada for several decades. During the 1970s, a few wells, installed across a small area in Saskatchewan and the Judith River Formation, pumped brackish water at high rates before they had to be abandoned due to excessive water table drawdown. Other wells in the area have been used more or less continuously for the last few decades to support enhanced oil recovery, where water levels have not dropped to the point that these wells also need to be abandoned. Simulations suggest that hydraulic heads have decreased by a few meters across distances of several kilometers from these pumping wells, however this regional drawdown has not been well documented (due a lack of monitoring) nor have water levels in the hundreds of wells in the shallow groundwater systems above Judith River Formation declined noticeably.
‘Groundwater’ the seminar text book from Freeze and Cheery (1979) is free in pdf now…just follow the links here. This text book is almost as old as I am and important parts of modern hydrogeology are rusty or non-existent (like hydroecology amongst other topics) but it is still lucidly written and useful. I routinely send students to read chapters so I am happy that it is now available free.
by Tom Gleeson
I started waterunderground.org a few years ago as my personal groundwater nerd blog with the odd guest post written by others. Since I love working with others, I thought it would be more fun, and more interesting for readers, to expand the number of voices regularly posting. So here is the new face of the blog…
What is the new blog all about?
Written by a global collective of hydrogeologic researchers for water resource professionals, academics and anyone interested in groundwater, research, teaching and supervision. We share the following aspirations:
- approachable groundwater science at the interface of other earth and human systems
- encourage sustainable use of groundwater that reduces poverty, social injustice and food security while maintaining the highest environmental standards
- compassionate, effective supervision
- innovative, effective teaching
- transparency of scientific methods, assumptions and data
Check out more details and how to be part of the blog on about.
Frequent contributors include:
- Andy Baker (University of New South Wales, Australia) – caves and karst (I actually visit the water underground!), climate and past climate
- Kevin Befus (University of Wyoming, United States) – groundwater-surface interactions, coastal groundwater, groundwater age
- Mark Cuthbert (University of Birmingham, United Kingdom) – groundwater recharge & discharge processes, paleo-hydrogeology, dryland hydro(geo)logy, climate-groundwater interactions
- Matt Currell (RMIT University, Australia) – isotope hydrology; groundwater quality; transient responses in aquifer systems
- Inge de Graaf (Colorado School of Mines, United States) – global groundwater withdrawal, flow and sustainability
- Grant Ferguson (University of Saskatchewan, Canada) – groundwater & energy, regional groundwater flow, sustainability
- Tom Gleeson (University of Victoria, Canada) – mega-scale groundwater systems and sustainability
- Scott Jasechko (University of Calgary, Canada) – global isotope hydrology; groundwater, precipitation, evapotranspiration
- Elco Luijendijk (University of Gottingen, Germany) – paleo-hydrogeology,deep groundwater flow,large scale groundwater systems
- Sam Zipper (University of Wisconsin – Madison, United States) – ecohydrology, agriculture, urbanization, land use change
This is cool! a video is from Owen Miles’ watermurica blog
Nature Geoscience is digging hard into water underground – the February issue is part of a special focus on groundwater. The cover this month is a gorgeous (groundwater-filled?) waterfall by Glen Jasechko, Scott’s brother. The groundwater focus includes:
- commentary on drought in the Anthropocene, led by Anne van Loon
- news and views pieces by Ying Fan and Tamara Goldin
- our paper on the volume and distribution of modern groundwater
- a paper on young streamwater globally led by Scott Jasechko
- a paper on groundwater as a crustal cooling agent by Henk Kooi
As part of the focus the journal made our paper on modern groundwater free to registered users for a month – so go download it an check out this and the other papers too!
We are peering into the not-so-distant future to imagine what the brand geniuses of the future will be serving up for discerning water consumers!
The Brand: Ogallala
Source: Great Plains
Why? Deep down, you know you love it.
Ogallala Water: GET PUMPED.
Swill waters run deep so we go deep, deep, deep into the Great Plains water table to pipe this ancient, undisturbed water to your table. No raunchy reuse here. Ogallala Water is guaranteed free of questionable recharge sources and serves up 30% less* in every freshly-pumped bottle.
*50% less in some areas. Supplies are limited.
Consume less fantasy and more facts at:
- USGS Water Science School: Groundwater Depletion (Note the red-riddled map!)
- From the Washington Post Wonkblog, How long before the Great Plains runs out of water?
- The pool of water under the Midwest is being sucked dry. The drought is making it worse via Grist.org
- The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital U.S. Water Source via ScientificAmerican.com
Reposted with permission from thristyinsuburbia.com.
This graphic is from Owen Miles’ watermurica blog