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Discover Groundwater – information for the general public

The header photograph depicts one of the many groundwater-fed lakes among the sand dunes in the Badain Jaran Desert, part of the only UNESCO Desert Geopark, located in Inner Mongolia, China. Prominent features of the desert are the huge sand dunes, the world’s highest, measuring up to 480m. There are over 100 lakes in the depressions among the sand dunes. These lakes maintain the vital oases and ecology in the desert. It is well known that the lakes are fed almost entirely by groundwater, but the source of groundwater in such an arid environment has been under extensive debate in the hydrogeological communities in both China and overseas. There are also concerns that some lakes could vanish in the near future due to global climate change.

Water, water, everywhere?…

Quite possibly you already know that much of the earth’s surface – just over two thirds – is covered in water. Of this water, around 96% is in the world’s oceans, and is saline. It is the freshwater – found in ice caps, rivers, streams, lakes – and under the ground (groundwater), that provides people, and much of nature, the essential supply to live. The vast majority of the unfrozen fresh water is in groundwater, as the graphic below shows.

…and much of it is hidden

Already freshwater is beginning to seem a little more precious. There are increasing pressures from food production, urbanisation and changing climate. The water underground (in “aquifers”), which provides greater resilience against these pressures than the smaller and more vulnerable reserves of surface water, is therefore vital to our future. Not only do we increasingly rely on groundwater for our drinking water and food production, it is also important for meeting our energy needs and for sustaining our ecosystems.


We hope this introduction makes you want to find out more about groundwater, and hydrogeology – the study and work of professionals interested in the protection and safe supply of groundwater – and value groundwater more highly as a key natural resource. We at IAH, and our members and supporters, most certainly do.

Find out more:

Groundwater – benefits and challenges

What is hydrogeology and what do hydrogeologists do?

Groundwater links and videos – e.g. USGC and other organisations, teaching resources, rural water supply, borehole and well construction

Information for students, hydrogeologists and other groundwater-related professionals, career development