How is the GW-Project’s work raising awareness of the importance of the hydrogeological component in today's global challenges?
Until the GW-Project, few resources presented the role of groundwater as a component of our toughest global challenges, e.g., how thoughtful management of groundwater resources reduces climate change impacts, and how evolving agricultural and industrial supply chains impact the vulnerability of potable water resources.
Our goal is to raise awareness of groundwater’s role in solving these challenges, both as part of the solution and its vulnerability as a resource.
What are you currently working on that would improve people’s understanding of the importance of groundwater as a factor in tackling our world’s major challenges?
Groundwater has an essential role in many industrial, agriculture, and mining activities crucial to the advancement of our modern economy. A side effect can be harm to groundwater.
The GW-Project includes books on related topics, such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), subsurface waste disposal associated with nuclear energy, municipal and industrial waste disposal, and bottled water to give insights from top experts.
While the unsustainable use and misuse of groundwater as it relates to food production is troubling, it’s a problem mainly for the “privileged segment” of humanity with access to water. The poorest segment lives in water poverty with a much more immediate concern.
According to a 2019 WHO/UNICEF report, about one-third of the world population lacks access to safe drinking water. Millions of needed wells have not been drilled because of a lack of knowledge and availability of technology. The GW-Project provides the knowledge to overcome this problem.
Over your career, you have impacted many professionals. What would help students contemplating studies in hydrogeology address the market’s needs?
Groundwater education and research are underrepresented in universities, which is illogical and irresponsible when employment opportunities are considered. As a result, students are ill-equipped to understand groundwater with its geological, hydrodynamic, chemical, and microbiological components that make it a dynamic, complex system.
A great many young people are motivated to work toward a sustainable planet. Offering groundwater education in a multidisciplinary framework will not only appeal to students, it's the only way to address this subject rigorously and provide an opportunity for students to build an impactful career.
At WSP Golder, we look at our work with a Future Ready lens. How does the GW-Project do this?
I hope to make government and water management circles more aware of the implications of climate change, population, and industrialization expansion. I intend to find the best examples globally concerning groundwater monitoring, management, protection, and governance.
We are experiencing a global freshwater crisis, and a big part of the reason it doesn’t get global attention is that the signs of crisis are seen as isolated.
There are examples worth emulating in many countries; however, they’re buried in technical literature or bureaucracies. Examples of modern and responsible governance are crucial to understanding what needs to change and why criticism is warranted in some areas.
What other actions from governments and industries could help mitigate this trajectory?
Without significant changes occurring, humanity will soon have a severe food crisis due to insufficient freshwater. And this will trigger more migrations of destitute people to countries where they see hope. In addition, unsustainable pumping and mismanagement of groundwater as a resource will exacerbate the issues we’ll face from climate change and the globalization of our distribution systems. We need to cultivate awareness of the magnitude of this problem then change how we function on the planet. This includes:
- Increase groundwater education, greater awareness, and transparency in how it’s being managed as a global resource and its role in the challenges our planet faces.
- Establish international rules for globalized agriculture. Fixing agriculture is essential to fixing climate change and groundwater simultaneously.
- Reduce the loss of groundwater to the oceans and out of the freshwater cycle on the continents.
- Firm commitments to safe drinking water.
Groundwater problems are not yet hopeless. Many aquifers are not depleted, and most drinking water is safe, but the global trend is alarming.
As a society, we must focus on freshwater as a direct and urgent necessity to combat climate change. If we win on climate but lose on water, we’ll lose the war to secure a sustainable planet.
More attention on groundwater is needed. WSP Golder invites you to support and to participate in this purposeful organization.