Infographic showing examples of water systen services
​Selected services of a drinking water source: Prevention of subsidience, heat pumps, habitat and maintaining water conditions. Infographic design: Slidesgo

Groundwater – a resource that affect our everyday life

​The theme of world water day 2022 is groundwater and its great importance to humanity , with the aim to emphasize the importance of a sustainable management of this critical resource. And as groundwater makes the main source of liquid freshwater globally, and about half of all drinking water in Sweden – an important step towards a sustainable approach is by using water system services to prioritize between water protection measures.
​   – Water System Services (WSS), are the qualities provided by drinking water sources that contribute to human wellbeing. When identifying and visualising those services – we also make it possible to determine the best way to protect them and prioritize between them when necessary.    
These are the words of Nadine Gärtner, PhD student at the Department of Architecture and Civil Portrait image of Nadine GärtnerEngineering, division of Geology and Geotechnics and DRICKS centre. Nadine is involved in the project platform Waterplan, coordinated by Associate Professor Andreas Lindhe. The Waterplan project aims at improving the protection of drinking water sources. One of the steps towards providing a holistic method is WSS combined with hazard assessment in a risk matrix, that water practitioners working in different regulating authorities can use as decision support. A matrix that Nadine developed.   

A hidden treasure that enriches our lives   

Groundwater is formed by the share of precipitation that doesn’t get lost by evaporation or is taken up by vegetation and is slowly filtered through the layers of soil into the ground and bedrock. Groundwater provides a vast range of services to humans, the most known being drinking water and irrigation, and is often of very good quality which means little or no need for purification. As groundwater feeds our rivers and lakes, it provides possibilities for leisure and indirectly supports transportation, and it also contributes to our built environment with heating, energy production, and the prevention of subsidence.    
   – Competing interests when implementing water protection measures pose a real challenge for decision makers. Additional services, like cultural or biological services provided by a clean drinking water source are typically disregarded, and the benefits of protection efforts are therefore often underestimated. We need to extend the scope of our assessments andillustrate how water protection measures affect all services, says Nadine Gärtner.    

Holistic view important yo mitigate hazards

The threats or hazards to groundwater differ geographically and between different sites. Climate change with changes in precipitation and/or temperature is often connected with declining groundwater levels, whereas human activities like agriculture, infrastructure and contamination by industrial activities are generally associated with aspects of quality.   
   – With the risk matrix, we can select which hazards should be mitigated from two different points; based on the services which are selected to be especially protected or to choose the hazards that are the biggest contributor to the overall risk. Having a clear and transparent representation of services, hazards, and risk mitigation consequences improves decision support, says Nadine.   
The risk matrix illustrates the risks a hazard source poses towards a variety of services, not only to the service of drinking water. In all, the method offers transparency for well-founded decision making which is needed to protect our groundwater.           

World Water Day is on 22 March every year. It is an annual United Nations Observance, started in 1993, that celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people currently living without access to safe water. A core focus of World Water Day is to inspire action towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.


Text: Catharina Björk

Page manager Published: Fri 25 Mar 2022.