Groundwater Quality: Global Threats, Opportunities and Realising the Potential of Groundwater

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Science of the Total Environment




Groundwater is a critical resource enabling adaptation due to land use change, population growth, environmental degradation, and climate change. It can be a driver of change and adaptation, as well as effectively mitigate impacts brought about by a range of human activities. Groundwater quality is key to assessing groundwater resources and we need to improve our understanding and coverage of groundwater quality threats if we are to use groundwater sustainably to not further burden future generations by limiting resources and/or increasing treatment or abstraction costs. Good groundwater quality is key to progress on a range of Sustainable Development Goals, but achievement of those goals most affected by groundwater contamination is often hindered by of a lack of resources to enable adaptation. A range of threats to groundwater quality exist, both natural and anthropogenic, which may constrain groundwater use. However, groundwater often provides good quality water for a range of purposes and is the most important water resource in many settings. This special issue explores some of the key groundwater quality challenges we face today as well as the opportunities good groundwater quality and treatment solutions bring to enhance safe groundwater use. Legacy anthropogenic contaminants and geogenic contaminants may be well documented in certain places, such as N America, Europe and parts of Asia. However, there is a real issue of data accessibility in some regions, even for more common contaminants. This paucity of information can restrict our understanding and ability to manage and protect groundwater sources. Compared to surface water quality, large scale assessments for groundwater quality are still scarce and often rely on inadequate data sets. Better access to existing data sets and more research is needed on many groundwater quality threats. Identification and quantification of these threats will support the wise use and protection of this subsurface resource, allow society to adequately address future challenges, and help communities realise the full potential of groundwater.


Adaptation; Anthropogenic; Geogenic; Groundwater quality; SDGs; Water security


Geology | Geotechnical Engineering

UNLV article access

Search your library