News

1.5 million grant for research into global groundwater sustainability and crop production

Published on
January 18, 2022

Inge de Graaf, a researcher at Water Systems and Global Change, was awarded a 1.5-million euro starting grant by the European Research Council (ERC). She will develop a model that links the availability of groundwater and agricultural production across the globe.

“It is a huge honor to receive this grant. The ERC is a personal grant to conduct research towards a subject that fascinates me: sustainable groundwater use and crop production.” De Graaf wants to know how much groundwater can be extracted before aquatic ecosystems are threatened and to what degree this groundwater contributes to the production of sufficient food in various parts of the world, both now and in the future. She stresses that water usage is not sustainable in many parts of the world, causing rivers and wells to fall dry.

If we don’t change towards more sustainable groundwater use, it will only take 30 years from now for most rivers worldwide to fall dry
Inge de Graaf

“We experience these effects all over the world already – in India, Pakistan, the middle and western parts of the United States, and in south Europe, to name just a few. The demand for food and water will continue to rise due to global population growth and climate change. If we don’t change towards more sustainable groundwater use, it will only take 30 years from now for most rivers worldwide to fall dry, meaning that we are unable to meet the food production demands. The competition for groundwater between food production and the environment is huge.” Explains Inge.

In her research, Inge intends to link three different models in an effort to gain insight into the water issues and possible solutions: a global groundwater model she developed during her PhD research in Utrecht; a model that maps and details the availability of surface water; and a Wageningen crop production model. An integrated model of this type and scale does not yet exist. Inge will be the first person to link the availability of groundwater to crop production. “I’m looking very much forward to dive deeper into this subject, together with a team of PhD students and postdocs. With a team like that we can really achieve something.”