Groundwater exploitation: a huge threat to our natural world… and how we can stop it

Published on
October 14, 2021

We are excited to share the article of The Guardian our colleague Inge de Graaf has contributed to, read her story here!

"What are the five biggest threats to our natural world, and how can we stop them?" is the question that The Guardian asked me. I told them about my research where I focus on the importance of groundwater and the need for sustainable exploitation of groundwater. Together with my insights, The Guardian published their article last week - just in the running of the first phase of the 15th Conference of the Parties which will lay the groundwork for governments to draw up an global agreement for a strategy to halt the loss of nature.

Out of the five biggest threats to biodiversity loss, I contributed to insights about the threat of direct exploitation of natural resources. In my research, I quantify how much groundwater we use now and will use in the future if we do not shift to more sustainable groundwater management. I estimate the impact of groundwater use on river flows and related aquatic ecosystems. I am excited to use an interview like this to show the wider audience that groundwater and rivers are connected. What we do with our groundwater is already affecting the flow or rivers around the world, with devastating consequences for aquatic ecosystems.

Groundwater is slow because it has to flow through rocks. If you extract water today, it will impact the stream flow maybe in the next five years, in the next 10 years, or in the next decades. I think the results of this research and related studies are pretty scary.
Dr. ir. Inge de Graaf

I hope I can convince the wider public and fellow researchers that now is the time to act: we need to use groundwater more sustainably now to minimize and prevent losses of biodiversity in the future. With my research, I contribute to the knowledge needed to do this.