Most people know virtually nothing about groundwater, and that’s a harsh reality for a hydrogeologist like myself to accept. But at the same time, I understand it completely. Groundwater is out of sight. We don’t learn about it in grade school, and it is generally trivialized in university education. And yet, nearly all the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater. The water we see in rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands is largely groundwater that flows towards the surface water sources. In other words, groundwater sustains rivers, streams, wetlands and lakes.
About half the people on Earth rely on groundwater for their drinking water. About 70% of irrigated food production relies unsustainably on groundwater. Climate change increases the odds of worsening drought in many parts of the world, making groundwater even more critical for life.
Reliance on groundwater is growing while availability is diminishing. For our civilization to continue, there must be sufficient freshwater, productive soil, and oceans, as well as a habitable climate. Of these, the most complicated, complex, least understood, and least monitored is groundwater – on which nearly all freshwater systems rely. The world is facing a freshwater crisis and groundwater is at its heart.
A key factor in the evolution of this crisis is lack of awareness of the problem beyond the groundwater science community. Another is the scarcity of expertise and organizational capability to analyze and solve groundwater problems. In my so-called retirement from being a university professor, I took the germ of an idea for advancing groundwater understanding and turned it into a non-profit charitable organization, the Groundwater Project (www.gw-project.org).
To visit the Groundwater Project website go to www.gw-project.org.
Now, six years later, the Groundwater Project has grown into a significant force for public understanding of “all things groundwater” and for the expansion of human capacity in groundwater problem solving. We are a Canadian-based charitable NGO of global scope, relying on volunteers from many different countries. The Groundwater Project creates and provides high-quality learning materials (such as books) in many languages and makes them available free-of-charge (as pdf’s) on our website. Groundwater Project books present synthesized knowledge that is understandable and actionable by a diversity of readers. We are evolving an effective approach that includes an abundance of figures, simulations, and videos to bring clarity to what has been discovered by research and experience. Each book undergoes an intensive, collaborative peer review to overcome difficulties in research synthesis and visualizing concepts to facilitate learning.
With book publishing well underway, the Groundwater Project is moving ahead with an expanded vision that involves facilitating groundwater education by developing multimedia interactive modules to convert book knowledge into actionable learning, and creating books about the state of the planet from a groundwater perspective.
There is much work to do, and the Groundwater Project needs more volunteers across a wide spectrum of expertise. We seek the services of individuals in the development of children’s books, short books, monographs, open-source software, reports, course notes, stand-alone worked problem sets, educational videos, visualizations (creative content), and online republication of decades-old books. We seek active collaborations with organizations around the globe engaged in the creation and/or delivery of educational materials based on Groundwater Project products. We seek authors, including author teams, to create books at the interfaces between groundwater and other knowledge areas such as, among others, ecology, forestry, soil science, economics, law, sociology, political science, and food and health sciences.
Of course, an expanded vision comes at a cost. Financial support for the Groundwater Project comes from individuals, companies, and Canadian government agencies. Funds are needed to expand and accelerate productivity. We need help from all stakeholders to ensure that the Groundwater Project continues to serve the greater needs of humanity and ecosystems.