Water is the element where life began and which sustains life. Each of us knows that all organisms on Earth depend on it, but its overall importance for nature and ecosystems is much more complex and comprehensive.
Every year on March 22, we celebrate World Water Day to draw attention to the 2 billion people who live without access to drinking water and to the importance of water resources for every living thing on the planet.
This year, the theme of the day is groundwater – the invisible reservoir whose impact is visible to all. Groundwater is a true hidden treasure that enriches our lives. They make up almost all the liquid water on the planet – they are part of the drinking water and sewage for people, they are used by agriculture and industry. Groundwater is also critical to maintaining healthy, functioning ecosystems such as wetlands and rivers. They are yet to play a key role in adapting to climate change.
In many areas of the world groundwater is overexploited – underground reservoirs are being depleted faster than they can be replenished by rain or snowmelt. Pollution is a particularly big problem because it can take decades or even centuries to recover from it. In many places around the world, there is no information about the available groundwater.
Good management of groundwater is necessary to achieve most of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 53 of all 169 goals are related to them. For example, target 2.4 for sustainable food production systems and flexible agricultural practices relies on the availability of groundwater. Good management of these waters is also necessary to achieve goal 6.6 to protect and restore water-related ecosystems and goal 15.1 to protect freshwater ecosystems and the services they provide.
The exploration, protection and sustainable use of groundwater will be central to survival and adaptation to climate change and meeting the needs of a growing population. Their maintenance and protection has always been crucial to nature conservation, but is not widely enough recognized. Today, more than ever, it is necessary to take measures to protect groundwater that balance the needs of people and the planet.