© UNESCO/Giorgio Faedo
Groundwater Resources and Climate (GRAPHIC)
Groundwater is an essential part of the hydrological cycle and is a valuable natural resource providing the primary source of water for agriculture, domestic, and industrial uses in many countries. Groundwater is also significant source of water for human consumption, supplying nearly half of all drinking water in the world and about 43 percent of all water effectively consumed in irrigation. Groundwater also is important for sustaining streams, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDE) in many countries.
However, global groundwater resources are threatened by human activities and the uncertain consequences of climate change. Many scientific studies have been carried out to better understand how water resources might respond to global change. Recent research has been focused predominantly on surface-water systems, due to their visibility, accessibility and more obvious recognition of surface waters being affected by global change. By comparison, relatively little is known about how subsurface waters in the vadose zone and groundwater might respond to climate change and affect the current availability and future sustainability of groundwater resources. The management of groundwater resources under the coupled pressures of climate change and human activities is a substantial challenge. Therefore, sound scientific understanding of the functioning of groundwater systems and their interactions with numerous and interlinked external factors is an indispensable basis for informed management.
GRAPHIC promotes and advances sustainable groundwater management considering projected climate change and linked human effects.
- Provide a platform for the exchange of information through case studies, thematic working groups, scientific research, and communication.
- Serve the global community by providing scientifically-based and policy-relevant recommendations.
- Use regional and global networks to improve the capacity to manage groundwater resources.
To address these concerns, the UNESCO-IHP initiated the GRAPHIC (Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change) project in 2004. GRAPHIC seeks to improve understanding of groundwater interactions within the global hydrologic cycle, how supports ecosystems and humankind and, in turn, responds to complex and coupled pressures of human activities and climate variability and change. To successfully achieve these objectives within a global context, GRAPHIC was developed to incorporate a collaborative effort and umbrella for international research and education. GRAPHIC outlines areas of desired international investigations covering major geographical regions, groundwater resource topics, and methods to help advance the combined knowledge needed to address scientific and social aspects.
The GRAPHIC project was designed with the understanding that groundwater resources can have nonlinear responses to atmospheric conditions associated with climate change and/or terrestrial- surface conditions associated with human activities. Therefore, groundwater assessments under the coupled pressures of human activities and climate change and variability involve the exploration of complex- system interactions. GRAPHIC incorporates a multidisciplinary scientific approach as the most rigorous platform to address such complexity. Furthermore, the GRAPHIC project extends investigations beyond physical, chemical, and biological interactions to include human systems of resource management and governmental policies. The structure of the GRAPHIC project has been divided into subjects, methods, and regions. The subjects encompass (i) groundwater quantity (recharge, discharge, and storage), (ii) quality, and (iii) management aspects. A variety of scientific methods and tools are being applied in the framework of GRAPHIC, including analysis of field data, geophysics, geochemistry, paleohydrology, remote sensing (in particular GRACE satellite gravimetry), information systems, modelling, and simulation. GRAPHIC consists of regional components (Africa, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean and North America) where case studies have been identified and carried out.
GRAPHIC is supported by the UNESCO-IHP, which is the only intergovernmental programme of the UN system devoted to water research, water resources management, and education and capacity building. Learn more about UNESCO-IHP here.