A pool of water surrounded by grasses at sunset with mountains in the background
Wetland at Kirsch Wetland at sunset at Kirsch Wildlife Management Area © Janel Johnson/NNHP


Beneath the Surface

Groundwater is a vital resource, but there is limited data available to help agencies and planners protect and sustainably manage it. The interaction between surface water and groundwater is complex and difficult to understand without well-developed science. The gaps in information are more problematic today than ever before. Groundwater buffers water supplies during droughts—which are occurring more often and with greater intensity due to climate change. An increasing reliance on groundwater, combined with development pressures and global demand for food, is a silent, unseen crisis for wildlife and humanity.

A group of Nature Conservancy scientists—the Global Groundwater Group—has taken on this challenge. Using advanced computing techniques and satellite imagery, the group is developing a first-of-its-kind map that locates groundwater-dependent ecosystems in arid regions. The goal of this effort is to advance sustainable groundwater management to meet the future water needs of nature and people.

Groundwater is water stored underground in the cracks and pores of rock and soil.
Groundwater Groundwater is water stored underground in the cracks and pores of rock and soil. © TNC

The United Nations has launched a yearlong campaign to spotlight the importance of groundwater—and it’s easy to see why.

Groundwater accounts for about 99% of the liquid fresh water on Earth.

It provides almost half of the world’s population—including 41% of people in the United States—with drinking water, and it is essential to many aquatic, wetland and upland habitats

Approximately 70% of global groundwater withdrawals are for agricultural irrigation.