Groundwater: key to a resilient and sustainable world

It is time for groundwater to become more visible. The invisible underground ‘water towers’ beneath our feet contain 100 times more freshwater than the volume of surface water on the continents. But this groundwater is under pressure due to unsustainable use, salinisation and pollution. We all depend on this fresh groundwater: for nature, for drinking and eating, and for our economy. The transitions required, such as the water, energy and agricultural transitions, mean we need to make responsible decisions about the use of water and space, and that includes the subsurface. In this groundwater year, we are eager to make the urgency of these issues, our intended social impact and groundwater expertise visible. Allow us to give three examples.

Changing deltas and groundwater management

Sinking and salinizing deltas are a worldwide problem. Land subsidence and the salinity of groundwater are often a direct result of how groundwater is managed, with sea level rise and more frequent drought as catalysts in this process. It is important to make visible how the system works and the role of groundwater in it. Research into solutions for the sustainable management of groundwater in coastal and river basins is one of the Deltares priorities. We are working on that research throughout the world, as in Jakarta, the Mekong Delta, in Senegal, and in the Dutch peatland area.

Urbanisation and the ‘greying’ of groundwater

The world is becoming more urban and that also has an impact below the surface on the quality of groundwater. Contaminants from the past, as well as emerging substances of concern from new production processes, are slowly degrading the general quality of groundwater for many years into the future. We describe this as the ‘greying’ of the groundwater. Here again, we have to make these processes visible so that people will be willing to seek solutions. We do that in large research alliances. And we contribute to the ‘Zero Pollution action plan’ as part of the European Green Deal.

Groundwater and future-proof planning

Particularly in densely populated areas such as the Netherlands, more and more claims are being made on the subsurface. They involve housing, the energy transition, nitrogen emissions, sustainable agriculture and the protection of nature areas. The groundwater system and the ecosystems that depend on it are under increasing pressure as a result, and climate change is amplifying that pressure. Future scenarios and an integrated picture make the urgency clear. An area-based approach is needed in which sustainable and resilient groundwater management is a fundamental determinant of decisions about planning. Not everything can be done everywhere forever.

We are working on a range of projects to demonstrate the pressing condition of our groundwater, to develop solutions and strategies, and to get them onto the agenda.


Groundwater key to a resilient and sustainable world #MakingInvisibleVisible


During this groundwateryear you can meet our groundwater experts for instance at

WereldwaterForum 9

Dakar, Senegal

22 March 2022


Special session Groundwater catalogue for  informed policy development and management interventions

10.45-12.15 ROOM 13 EXPO

Geert-Jan Nijsten

Groundwater event IHE

22 March 2022

Westvest, Delft


The NICC Foundation and IHE Delft with partners Acacia, Deltares, IAH Netherlands and IGRAC are organizing a livestreamed seminar on the past, present and future of groundwater management on world water day. Presentations will be followed by a Q&A and discussion.

Gualbert Oude Essink

MEP* Water Group Event Brussel (online)

25 Maart 09.00-10.30

*Members of European Parliament

Groundwater: The United Nations World Water Development Report 2022

Sophie Vermooten

Groundwater, key to the sustainable development goals

18-20 May

Improving groundwater management in sinking and saltier deltas: the Mekong Delta Case

Gualbert Oude Essink

COASTAR subsurface solution to improve water availability.

Assessing groundwater fluxes of the major transboundary aquifers using a high resolution global groundwater model

World Water Week

23 Augustus – September 1


Theme the value of water for people and development.
Groundwater management, key to resilient deltas for food and nature (on site session)Otto de Keizer
UN Groundwater Summit


Groundwater and the right to a healthy environment

Geert-Jan Nijsten and Marta Faneca