Climate Change Effects on Groundwater Resources: A Global Synthesis of Findings and Recommendations

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  • Covers a broad range of scientific methods applied in unraveling the effects of climate change on groundwater resources, including classical hydrogeology, geochemistry, isotopes, and remote sensing applications
  • Includes a set of policy-relevant recommendations that goes beyond the presentation of purely scientific results making the publication of wide interest not only for scientists, but also water resource managers and decision makers


Climate change is expected to modify the hydrological cycle and affect freshwater resources. Groundwater is a critical source of fresh drinking water for almost half of the world’s population and it also supplies irrigated agriculture. Groundwater is also important in sustaining streams, lakes, wetlands, and associated ecosystems. But despite this, knowledge about the impact of climate change on groundwater quantity and quality is limited.

Direct impacts of climate change on natural processes (groundwater recharge, discharge, storage, saltwater intrusion, biogeochemical reactions, chemical fate and transport) may be exacerbated by human activities (indirect impacts). Increased groundwater abstraction, for example, may be needed in areas with unsustainable or contaminated surface water resources caused by droughts and floods. Climate change effects on groundwater resources are, therefore, closely linked to other global change drivers, including population growth, urbanization and land-use change, coupled with other socio-economic and political trends. Groundwater response to global changes is a complex function that depends on climate change and variability, topography, aquifer characteristics, vegetation dynamics, and human activities.

This volume contains case studies from diverse aquifer systems, scientific methods, and climatic settings that have been conducted globally under the framework of the UNESCO-IHP project Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change (GRAPHIC). This book presents a current and global synthesis of scientific findings and policy recommendations for scientists, water managers and policy makers towards adaptive management of groundwater sustainability under future climate change and variability.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Rationale
1.2 Overview of the book

Tropical Climates

2 The impacts of climate change and rapid development on weathered crystalline rock aquifer systems in the humid tropics of sub-Saharan Africa: evidence from south-western Uganda

Richard Taylor & Callist Tindimugaya

2.1 Introduction
2.1.1 Purpose and scope
2.1.2 Description of the study area: the River Mitano Basin
2.2 Results and discussion
2.2.1 Impacts of intensive groundwater abstraction
2.2.2 Impact of climate change on groundwater recharge
2.2.3 Uncertainty in climate change impacts on groundwater resources
2.3 Conclusions and recommendations

3 Groundwater recharge and storage variability in southern Mali

Chris M. Henry, Harm Demon, Diana M. Allen & Dirk Kirste

3.1 Introduction
3.1.1 Purpose and scope
3.1.2 Study area description: southern Mali
3.1.3 Methodology
3.1.4 Relevance for GRAPHIC
3.2 Results and discussion
3.2.1 Groundwater levels and storage anomalies
3.2.2 Recharge modelling
3.3 Policy recommendations
3.4 Future work

4 Groundwater discharge as affected by land use change in small catchments: A hydrologic and economic case study in Central Brazil

Henrique M.L. Chaves, Ana Paula S. Camelo & Rejane M. Mendes

4.1 Introduction
4.1.1 Purpose and scope
4.1.2 Description of the area: the Pipiripau river basin
4.1.3 Relevance for GRAPHIC
4.2 Methodology
4.2.1 Correlating annual base flow discharge with basin land use intensity
4.2.2 Obtaining basin curve-number and base flow discharge from stream fl ow data
4.2.3 Empirical relationship between the base flow index and the normalized runoff coefficient
4.2.4 Estimating and valuing hydrological services resulting from land conservation scenarios
4.3 Results and discussion
4.3.1 Correlation between the dry season discharge and basin land use intensity
4.3.2 Base fl ow discharge hydrographs and basin curve-number (baseline condition)
4.3.3 Hydrological services resulting from land conservation scenarios
4.4 Policy recommendations
4.5 Future work

5 Effects of storm surges on groundwater resources, North Andros Island, Bahamas

John Bowleg & Diana M. Allen

5.1 Introduction
5.1.1 Purpose and scope
5.1.2 Study area description: North Andros Island
5.1.3 Methodology
5.1.4 Relevance for GRAPHIC
5.2 Results and discussion
5.2.1 The well fi eld on North Andros
5.2.2 Hurricane Frances
5.2.3 Consequences of the storm surge in 2004
5.3 Policy recommendations
5.4 Future work

6 Reducing groundwater vulnerability in Carbonate Island countries in the Pacific

Ian White & Tony Falkland

6.1 Introduction
6.1.1 Purpose and scope
6.1.2 Study area description: Pacifi c Island countries
6.1.3 Methodology
6.1.4 Relevance for GRAPHIC
6.2 Results, discussion, and policy recommendations
6.2.1 Characteristics of fresh groundwater lens
6.2.2 Threats to fresh groundwater
6.2.3 Reducing the vulnerability of groundwater systems
6.3 Future work

Dry (Arid and Semiarid) Climates

7 Groundwater resources increase in the Iullemmeden Basin, West Africa

Guillaume Favreau, Yahaya Nazoumou, Marc Leblanc, Abdou Guéro & Ibrahim Baba Goni

7.1 Introduction
7.1.1 Purpose and scope
7.1.2 Description of the study area: the Iullemmeden Basin
7.1.3 Methodology
7.1.4 Relevance to GRAPHIC
7.2 Results and discussion
7.2.1 Land use and land cover change
7.2.2 Increased runoff and erosion
7.2.3 Long-term changes in the water table
7.2.4 Impacts of climate change and land use changes on groundwater resources
7.3 Policy-relevent Recommendations
7.4 Future work

8 Climate change and its impacts on groundwater resources in Morocco: the case of the Souss-Massa basin

Lhoussaine Bouchaou, Tarik Tagma, Said Boutaleb, Mohamed Hssaisoune & Zine El Abidine El Morjani

8.1 Introduction
8.1.1 Purpose and scope
8.1.2 Description of the study area: the Souss-Massa basin
8.1.3 Methodology
8.1.4 Relevance to GRAPHIC
8.2 Results and discussion
8.2.1 Rainfall variation
8.2.2 Temperature and heat waves
8.2.3 Impacts on groundwater level
8.2.4 Impacts on groundwater quality
8.3 Policy recommendations
8.4 Future work

9 Vulnerability of groundwater quality to human activity and climate change and variability, High Plains aquifer, USA

Jason J. Gurdak, Peter B. McMahon & Breton W. Bruce

9.1 Introduction
9.1.1 Purpose and scope
9.1.2 Study area description: High Plains aquifer
9.1.3 Methodology
9.1.4 Relevance for GRAPHIC
9.2 Results, discussion, and policy recommendations
9.2.1 Groundwater availability and sustainability are a function of quantity and quality
9.2.2 Conversion of rangeland to irrigated cropland affects water quality
9.2.3 Chemical transport to the water table follows fast and slow paths
9.2.4 The quality of shallow and deep groundwater are substantially different
9.2.5 Mixing of groundwater by high-capacity wells adversely affects water quality
9.2.6 Limited ability to naturally attenuate some contaminants
9.2.7 Interannual to multidecadal climate variability affects recharge and groundwater quality
9.2.8 The quality of most water produced by private, public-supply, and irrigation wells is suitable for the intended uses
9.3 Future work
9.4 Additional information

10 Groundwater change in the Murray basin from long-term in-situ monitoring and GRACE estimates

Marc Leblanc, Sarah Tweed, Guillaume Ramillien, Paul Tregoning, Frédéric Frappart, Adam Fakes & Ian Cartwright

10.1 Introduction
10.1.1 Purpose and scope
10.1.2 Study area description
10.1.3 Methodology
10.1.4 Relevance to GRAPHIC
10.2 Results and discussion
10.2.1 Long-term observations from in situ hydrographs
10.2.2 GRACE observations
10.2.3 Discussion
10.3 Policy-relevant recommendations
10.4 Future work

Temperate Climates

11 Impact assessment of combined climate and management scenarios on groundwater resources. The Inca-Sa Pobla hydrogeological unit (Majorca, Spain)

Lucila Candela, Wolf von Igel, F. Javier Elorza & Joaquín Jiménez-Martínez

11.1 Introduction
11.1.1 Description of the study area: the Inca-Sa Pobla  hydrogeological unit
11.2 Methodology
11.2.1 Recharge estimation
11.2.2 Groundwater fl ow simulation model
11.2.3 Climate change scenarios. Statistical downscaling
11.2.4 Groundwater abstraction scenarios
11.2.5 Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis
11.2.6 Impact assessment by coupling climate and abstraction scenarios
11.3 Results and discussion
11.3.1 GCM and local predictions
11.3.2 Climate change impact on groundwater resources and natural recharge
11.3.3 Sensitivity analysis of water abstraction spatial location
11.3.4 Impact of combined climate change and management scenarios on spring flow rate
11.4 Conclusions and relevance for GRAPHIC

12 The effect of climate and anthropogenic sea level changes on Israeli coastal aquifers

Yoseph Yechieli, Uri Kafri & Eyal Shalev

12.1 Introduction
12.1.1 Description of the area: the Israeli Mediterranean and the Dead Sea coastal aquifer systems
12.1.2 Relevance for GRAPHIC
12.2 Methodology
12.2.1 Field studies
12.2.2 Numerical simulation of the Mediterranean coastal aquifer system
12.2.3 Numerical simulation of the Dead Sea aquifer system
12.3 Results and discussion
12.3.1 The Mediterranean coastal aquifer system
12.3.2 The Dead Sea coastal aquifer
12.4 Summary and conclusion
12.5 Policy recommendations

13 Land subsidence and sea-level rise threaten fresh water resources in the coastal groundwater system of the Rijnland water board, The Netherlands

Gualbert Oude Essink & Henk Kooi

13.1 Introduction
13.1.1 Relevance for GRAPHIC
13.1.2 Salinizing and freshening processes in Dutch coastal aquifers
13.1.3 Description of the area: the Rijnland Water Board
13.2 Description of the numerical method
13.2.1 Numerical code
13.2.2 Scenarios of sea-level rise and land subsidence
13.2.3 The 3D model
13.2.4 Calibration of the 3D model
13.3 Results and discussion
13.3.1 Salinization of the groundwater system
13.3.2 Compensating measures
13.4 Conclusions

14 Climate change impacts on valley-bottom aquifers in mountain regions: case studies from British Columbia, Canada

Diana M. Allen

14.1 Introduction
14.1.1 Purpose and scope
14.1.2 Study area description: valley- bottom aquifers in mountain regions
14.1.3 Methodology
14.1.4 Relevance for GRAPHIC
14.2. Results and discussion
14.2.1 Okanagan Basin
14.2.2 Grand Forks
14.3 Policy recommendations
14.4 Future work

15 Possible effects of climate change on groundwater resources in the central region of Santa Fe Province, Argentina

Ofelia Tujchneider, Marta Paris, Marcela Pérez & Mónica D’Elía

15.1 Introduction
15.1.1 Purpose
15.1.2 Description of the area: the central region of Santa Fe Province
15.1.3 Methods
15.1.4 Relevance for GRAPHIC
15.2 Results and discussion
15.3 Policy recommendations
15.4 Future work

Continental Climates

16 Impacts of drought on groundwater depletion in the Beijing Plain, China
Yangxiao Zhou, Liya Wang, Jiurong Liu & Chao Ye

16.1 Introduction
16.1.1 Purpose and scope
16.1.2 Description of the study area: the Beijing Plain
16.2 Results and discussion
16.2.1 Detection of climate changes
16.2.2 Analysis of rapid decline of groundwater levels
16.2.3 Simulation of groundwater depletion under recent droughts
16.2.4 Options for mitigating further groundwater depletion
16.3 Management issues
16.3.1 Legal aspects
16.3.2 Institutional aspects
16.3.3 A drought management plan
16.4 Conclusions and recommendations

17 Possible effects of climate change on hydrogeological systems: results from research on Esker aquifers in northern Finland

Bjørn Kløve, Pertti Ala-aho, Jarkko Okkonen & Pekka Rossi

17.1 Introduction
17.1.1 Study area description: esker aquifers, northern Finland
17.1.2 Importance of esker aquifers in climate change studies
17.2 Results and discussion
17.2.1 How should we assess climate change and land- use changes?
17.2.2 Models used and our experiences from modelling
17.2.3 Impact of future climate change on hydrology and recharge
17.2.4 Surface water- groundwater interaction in lakes
17.2.5 Impact of peatland drainage
17.3 Policy recommendations
17.4 Future work

Polar Climates

18 Impacts of climate change on groundwater in permafrost areas: case study from Svalbard, Norway

Sylvi Haldorsen, Michael Heim & Martine van der Ploeg

18.1 Introduction
18.1.1 Purpose and scope
18.1.2 Area description
18.1.3 Methodology
18.1.4 Relevance to GRAPHIC
18.2 Results and discussion: Subpermafrost groundwater
18.2.1 Discontinuous permafrost
18.2.2 Continuous permafrost, case study Svalbard: results and discussion of previous work
18.3 Policy- relevant recommendations
18.4 Future work

Various Climates

19 Groundwater management in Asian cities under the pressures of human impacts and climate change

Makoto Taniguchi

19.1 Introduction
19.1.1 Relevance for GRAPHIC
19.2 Results and discussion
19.2.1 Satellite GRACE
19.2.2 Subsurface warming
19.2.3 Groundwater assessment as natural capacity
19.3 Policy recommendations
19.4 Conclusion and future work

20 Evaluation of future climate change impacts on European groundwater resources

Kevin Hiscock, Robert Sparkes & Alan Hodgson

20.1 Introduction
20.1.1 Description of the areas: aquifer units in northern and southern Europe
20.2 Methodology
20.3 Results and discussion
20.4 Conclusions
20.5 Future work and relevance to GRAPHIC

21 Sustainable groundwater management for large aquifer systems: tracking depletion rates from space

Sean Swenson & James Famiglietti

21.1 Introduction
21.1.1 Purpose and Scope
21.1.2 Description of the study area
21.1.3 Relevance to GRAPHIC
21.2 Methods and Results
21.2.1 Ground- based well measurements
21.2.2 Hydrologic Modelling
21.2.3 The GRACE- based approach: case studies from the Central Valley of California (USA) and northern India
21.4. A framework for global groundwater monitoring

22 Major science findings, policy recommendations, and future work
22.1 Overview
22.2 Tropical climates
22.2.1 Science fi ndings
22.2.2 Policy recommendations
22.3 Dry (arid and semiarid) climates
22.3.1 Science fi ndings
22.3.2 Policy recommendations
22.4 Temperate climates
22.4.1 Science fi ndings
22.4.2 Policy recommendations
22.5 Continental climates
22.5.1 Science fi ndings
22.5.2 Policy recommendations
22.6 Polar climates
22.6.1 Science fi ndings
22.6.2 Policy recommendations
22.7 Various climates
22.7.1 Science fi ndings
22.7.2 Policy recommendations
22.8 Future work

Contributing authors and contact information
Subject index

Editor Bio(s)

Holger Treidel is an environmental scientist and works as project coordinator with UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme in Paris. His work is related to the sustainable management of groundwater resources under the effects of climate change & variability, with particular focus on the complex challenges related to the management of transboundary aquifer systems. He is coordinating the UNESCO project Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change (GRAPHIC) and global and regional transboundary groundwater management projects in cooperation with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

Jose Luis Martin-Bordes is a civil engineer specialized in groundwater resources management and works as project coordinator in the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) within the Division of Water Sciences of UNESCO, Paris, France. He provides support to the coordination of the IHP Groundwater activities including the Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change (GRAPHIC), the International Shared Aquifer Resources Management Initiative (ISARM), Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems and Groundwater for Emergency Situations (GWES).

Jason J. Gurdak is Assistant Professor of hydrogeology in the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, California, USA. He and his research group address basic and applied questions about sustainable groundwater management, vadose zone and soilwater processes that affect recharge and contaminant transport, groundwater vulnerability to contamination and climate extremes, and the effects of climate change and interannual to multidecadal climate variability on water resources. Since 2004 he has served on the UNESCO project Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change (GRAPHIC) that promotes science, education, and awareness of the coupled effects of climate change and human stresses on global groundwater resources.