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Groundwater and its Global Significance

15 June 2016
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Geological Society Events
The Geological Society, Burlington House
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Groundwater is a precious natural resource.  Excluding the ice caps and glaciers, groundwater comprises more than 98% of all fresh water on Earth and plays an essential role in meeting the global population’s demand for water.  

Yet, hidden as it is beneath the continents, groundwater is poorly understood leading to severe socio-economic consequences from the over-abstraction and contamination of aquifers.  In this lecture, the distribution of groundwater in the major sedimentary basins of the world will be described and the role of groundwater as a component of the hydrological cycle explained.  

Following an introduction to hydrogeological principles controlling the movement and chemical composition of groundwater in the Earth's crust, an ecosystem services approach will be adopted to demonstrate the importance of groundwater in meeting historic and current demand for drinking water and for irrigating crops.  The intensification of land use and climate change seriously threaten the sustainability of groundwater resources and the latest scientific evidence will be presented to make the case for improved governance of groundwater for the protection of this vital geological resource for future generations.


Kevin Hiscock, (University of East Anglia)

Kevin Hiscock is Professor and Head of School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia.  Following a first degree in Environmental Sciences at UEA, Kevin joined the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Birmingham as a PhD student and then Research Fellow during which time he studied the hydrochemistry and influence of past climate change on groundwater conditions in the Chalk aquifer of Eastern England.  

Upon returning to UEA in 1989 as a lecturer, Kevin developed applications in stable isotope chemistry to further understand the hydrogeology of aquifer systems both in the UK and overseas, giving particular emphasis to the fate of nitrate contamination of aquifers.  In the last five years, Kevin has been part of a multi-partner project investigating how contamination of surface water and groundwater from agricultural runoff can be mitigated by improved farm management practices.  

In 2005, Kevin published the first edition of his major textbook on hydrogeology that presents the integral role of groundwater in environmental processes.