Water Resources

EuroGeoSurveys Water Resources Expert Group (EGS WREG) focuses on groundwater management and protection of groundwater resources.

The Water Resources Expert Group mission is to provide scientific information and unbiased advices on water resources. In particular the focus is on groundwater management and protection in general, and more specifically related to the groundwater aspects of the Water Framework Directive (European Commission, 2000), the Groundwater Directive (European Commission, 2006) and the Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) of both Directives.
The WREG supports and advices DG ENVIRONMENT on technical and policy-related issues, identifies knowledge gaps for the EU Research Agenda and shares the expertise of EU Member States Surveys in implementing the Water Framework and the Groundwater Directive.
The WREG vision is to be the most authoritative source of subsurface water resources scientific information and expertise and develop methodologies to understand, evaluate and predict climate change impacts on groundwater resources and interlinked surface waters and ecosystems.
Since 2003 EGS WREG actively contributed to discussions on the definition of the Groundwater Directive and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The WREG participated in the EU Working Group C on Groundwater improving the understanding of climate change impacts on groundwater, a precious resource which is only slowly replenished and is essential to the European society by providing drinking water, and water for agriculture, industry and ecosystem services.
There is a clear need for further research in order to better understand how climate change impacts affect groundwater. A key research theme that the WREG identified is the need to: “Develop methodologies to understand, evaluate and predict climate change impacts on groundwater resources and interlinked surface waters and ecosystems in order to eventually define climate-robust set of measures”. The methodologies should be able to assess the effects of local and regional measures and to produce scenario analyses, which help to select effective sets of counter effective measures, including scenarios for the conjunctive use of groundwater and surface waters and the assessment of favourable locations for managed aquifer recharge e.g. to control salt water intrusion.
The research should include an evaluation of societal challenges and changes in reaction to climate change projections, both related to water and energy policies. It should develop methods to understand the possible adverse effects of CCS practices, thermal heat storage and the exploration and exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels on future groundwater uses and ecosystem services. It should also highlight the opportunities for using bio-indicators in groundwater as an early warning and evaluation technique to deduce the effects of extreme hydro-meteorological events on groundwater and associated ecosystems.

In 2011 and 2012, the WREG chaired the EU Workshop “Climate Change Impacts on Groundwater” bringing scientists and policy makers together on this topic and led to a Water Resources EG Manifesto on research needs related to this topic which was presentedto DG-Research.

 

…about Ground Water

About 60% of the drinking water in the European Union comes from groundwater, and in some countries in Europe it is the only source of drinking water. Where can we find groundwater, how large is the resource, do we observe quality changes (trends) in time and space, and how do we ensure sufficient high quality groundwater for the future generations and ecosystems?

Which way and how fast does groundwater flow, how does groundwater interact with surface water and ecosystems (wetlands, rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters) and how does our needs for good drinking water clash with the needs of intensive farming and the flora and fauna in protected ecosystems? What threatens future water reserves and how can we protect them? These are questions that are constantly on the mind of a hydrogeologist.
Most groundwater is high quality drinking water that has been naturally filtered by the rock pores through which it passes. This flow of groundwater is relatively slow and the residence time in the subsurface can be as long as tens of thousands of years or even millions of years. Groundwater is vulnerable to long-lasting contamination by the industrial, agricultural or domestic wastes and leachates. This contamination is difficult and costly to remediate. Therefore, to protect groundwater and to guarantee its highest quality the European Geological Surveys are constantly monitoring and studying the groundwater flow, the quality and the contamination risks.
The impacts of climate change on groundwater are not limited to water scarcity in southern European countries, but also result in significantly changed seasonal regimes of snowmelt, wetter winters, dryer summers and prolonged periods of droughts as well as groundwater flooding in other parts of Europe. It also appeared that secondary impacts of climate change, caused by human adaptations in energy and water policies have potentially large impacts on groundwater resources. An example of secondary impacts is the change of land use practices, including an increase in the production of energy crops, which already led to increasing nitrogen concentrations in groundwater due to increased use of fertilizers in some areas in Europe. Other negative effects may include higher pesticide application and concentrations and increasing water demands that affect both water quality and quantity.
Another example is the more intensive use of the subsurface in relation to energy policy and climate change mitigation, for instance by a sharp increase of aquifer thermal energy storage facilities in Europe, CO2 storage and the exploration of unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas. These initiatives may help mitigating climate change, but may also have potentially adverse effects on both groundwater quantity and quality depending on the hydrogeological setting. Hence, there is a strong need for improved understanding of how climate change mitigation measures will affect groundwater quantity and quality, as well as the receptors of groundwater such as ecosystems, surface waters and drinking water abstractions.

 

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