The Groundwater Project

Dr. John Cherry, Adjunct Professor, University of Guelph, Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo
Featured Water Professional

Broadening Awareness and Knowledge of a Hidden But Vital Resource

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 ( 

To visit the Groundwater Project website go to

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.

Progress to date:

  • 35 original books published, 32 near publication, 150 underway, more being identified.
  • high credibility: leading experts from >30 countries, more than 50% of the books completed include authors with professional awards or honors.
  • 12 preserved ‘classic’ books of enduring value, mostly greater than two decades old. 
  • 45 book translations completed, some books into 15 languages, 137 translations underway including in total 47 languages.
  • Over 1000 volunteers: from 70 countries, 283 authors, 406 translators, 287 reviewers, and more than 50 other volunteers including advisors and facilitators.
  • More than 160,000 pdf book downloads in 174 countries and over 300,000 webbook reads.

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. 

Help is needed

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.

Below are links to a selection of our current titles:

Conceptual and Visual Understanding of Hydraulic Head and Groundwater Flow
A Conceptual Overview of Surface and Near-Surface Brines and Evaporite Minerals
Dense Chlorinated Solvents
Dissolved Organic Carbon in Groundwater Systems
Distributed Fiber-optic Hydrogeophysics
Groundwater and Hydrothermal Ore Deposits
Cross-Border Impacts Related to Transboundary Aquifers
Groundwater and Petroleum
Claire and the Invisible Water

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