Global Groundwater. Source, Scarcity, Sustainability, Security, and Solutions - Chapter 37: The future of groundwater science and research

Elsevier, Global Groundwater. Source, Scarcity, Sustainability, Security, and Solutions, 2021, Pages 503-517
David K. Kreamer, David M. Ball, Viviana Re, Craig T. Simmons, Thomas Bothwell, Hanneke J.M. Verweij, Abhijit Mukherjee, and Magali F. Moreau

The future of groundwater research and commercial activities holds many opportunities for scientists, engineers, social scientists, and decision makers. Fundamental perspectives on groundwater are changing toward an understanding that a huge fraction of groundwater flow and storage normally is in, and through, breaks or conduits in impermeable or low-permeability rock, and fundamental analytical groundwater flow equations that were first established with an assumption of homogeneity and isotropy are inadequate. Because groundwater science is so multidisciplinary, advances in industry and other disciplines are propelling hydrogeological research and practice forward, with numerous examples of cross-disciplinary advances. Many commercial operations (e.g., oil and gas, geothermal, mining) create a wealth of geological and hydrogeological information in their everyday exploration activities that can be used by groundwater professionals. New areas of interdisciplinary collaboration include the challenges of deep groundwater, ecohydrology, the hydrogeology of the oceanic floor, extraterrestrial hydrology, groundwater quality, and emerging contaminants, groundwater forensics, and advances in monitoring and analysis. Opportunities also exist for partnership with social science in groundwater law, regulation, and governance. Advocacy for groundwater protection, outreach, and better communication with the general public and decision makers is part of the new frontier of socio-hydrology. Finally, groundwater education is not keeping pace with the field itself. There is a growing disparity between the tools that groundwater researchers have developed and daily practices of groundwater professionals. A call for more research cannot be made without an acknowledgment of the growing research–practice gap, the reasons for that, and possible remedies. The prognosis for the future of groundwater science and research has many challenges, and its frontiers continue to expand.