Ten Reasons Why Our Relationship with Groundwater is a Total Mess

GroundwaterU Video Summary

Presentation by John Cherry, Professor Emeritus and Chair of The Groundwater Project. Presentation given at the 47th IAH Congress, virtual conference in 2021.

In the video, Prof. Cherry proposes there are three parts to the groundwater problem: depletion, salinization, and water quality. Examples of some of the points made in the presentation include the following: Depleting water from aquifers causes land subsidence in many areas, and how groundwater is the largest cause of relative sea level rise at many coastal cities. Seawater intrusion salinizes aquifers, irrigated agriculture salinizes soil, oil and gas drilling operations releases saline water. The water quality problem includes a geogenic component – naturally occurring contaminants – such as arsenic. He indicates that more monitoring data is needed to understand how many people are affected by arsenic; existing estimates are uncertain due to unreliable records on domestic wells that supply drinking water. Water quality is also jeopardized by human-made pollutant sources. A conceptual figure shows common sources, and he indicates that there are tens of millions of locations around the globe where contaminants have entered groundwater. He reviews the history of groundwater contamination, and emphasizes that the number of different types of chemicals in groundwater is increasing (such as PFAS) and plumes are expanding. Agriculture is the biggest source of groundwater pollution, namely nitrate and pesticides. He describes concepts of assimilative capacity and “virtual water” due to globalization of the food supply. Overall, there are two categories of groundwater problems around the globe: regions where there is too much depletion and pollution, and regions where more pumping wells are needed, mainly in poor communities.

Overall, the groundwater crisis is due to the following:
Slow groundwater response times; 2) groundwater is “invisible”; 3) groundwater is difficult to monitor; 4) groundwater contamination is cumulative; 5) waste release/disposal issues; 6) fragmented regulations; 7) externalized costs; 8) globalization; 9) unknown/unlinked health impacts; and 10) ignorance.

He describes the motivation for, and presents an overview of, The Groundwater Project (gw-project.org), which is a groundwater education initiative.

The presentation spans from t=11:45 to 38:52 in the video.

About this Video

Source: youtu.be/xdr9M1iQfp0?t=718
Video Creator: ABAS Aguas Subterraneas
Recommended/Summary by: Andrew Cohen
Curated by GroundwaterU on: 01/20/2022

Video Language: English
Video Category: Policy/Legal, Science/Engineering, Thought Leadership
Multimedia Type: Film/Pictures, Drawings/Graphs/Maps, Descriptive Text
Presentation Style: Lecture
Technical Level: Advanced