The Groundwater Drought Initiative (GDI)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Geological Survey
Department Name: Groundwater

Abstract

Groundwater provides a significant proportion of water supplies in the UK and the majority of our domestic water in many parts of southern, south-eastern and eastern England. It is an important source for agricultural irrigation and for industry in the UK. It supports flow in many of the UKs most iconic rivers, such as the Chalk streams of the Chilterns and the North and South Downs, maintaining healthy ecosystems, and providing amenity value and supporting livelihoods associated with those groundwater-dependent rivers. When managed appropriately, it is a dependable, resilient source of water. However, due to natural year-on-year variations in rainfall, it is susceptible to major droughts. For example, during the last major groundwater drought in the UK in 2010-12 seven water companies in south and east England had to impose temporary use bans (colloquially known as 'hosepipe bans') on about 20 million people in spring of 2012 with the environment and farming sectors also significantly adversely affected by restrictions on their use of water. Consequently, there is a need for a much better understanding of groundwater droughts and their impacts to support improvement in planning for and managing groundwater droughts in the UK.

Groundwater droughts are defined as below normal levels of groundwater and have a number of unwelcome effects, such as reduced production of groundwater from boreholes, and the drying up of groundwater-dependent rivers with resulting implications for wildlife and livelihoods. The Natural Environment Research Council is currently funding the 'UK Droughts and Water Scarcity Programme' providing strategically important research to improve characterisation and prediction of episodes of drought in the UK. However, major episodes of drought take time to develop and affect large areas. For example, when there is a long groundwater drought in the UK, e.g. 2010-12, that same drought also affects large parts of continental Europe. As a result, there is significant benefit to be gained for the UK by understanding the development and impacts of major droughts at the European scale. However, there is currently no co-ordination of relevant groundwater information or groundwater drought research across Europe, and currently groundwater drought status cannot be monitored or its impacts assessed at the continental scale. This project, the Groundwater Drought Initiative (GDI), aims to address these shortcomings leading to significant improvements in groundwater drought characterization and impact assessment for the UK and continental Europe.

The GDI will build on and add value to two existing NERC-funded projects (the Historic Droughts and IMPETUS projects) in the current NERC UK Droughts and Water Scarcity Programme and will work with partners from BOKU, Austria; University of Rouen, France; University of Freiburg, Germany; University of Oslo, Norway; Wageningen University, Netherlands; Comenius University, Slovakia; and, CISC, Spain as well as other researchers across Europe. The GDI will produce and publish the first pan-European assessment of groundwater drought status (from 1960 to present), and will analyse the most recent European groundwater droughts. The GDI will investigate what groundwater droughts mean for people - for the first time systematically investigating the impacts of recent groundwater droughts by comparing the results of the new European-scale groundwater drought status assessments with information about impacts of previous recent droughts held in an existing on-line database (the European Drought Impact Report Inventory, EDII). Central to all the activities of the GDI will be the establishment of a new network to co-ordinate the work of groundwater drought specialists and related data and information across Europe, ensuring the dissemination, use and maintenance of the common resources to enable future impactful research into groundwater droughts.

Planned Impact

For the Groundwater Drought Initiative (GDI) to fully realise its potential it is essential that it is responsive to and works with a range of non-academic partners. To achieve the most beneficial impacts, the GDI will extend work with existing partners in the UK water sector, including environmental regulators and water utilities, and will foster new links with similar agencies and organisations across Europe. In addition, the GDI will seek to work with a range of international institutions to enable the work and findings of the GDI to have global exposure and impact.

The GDI team are already working with partners in the Environment Agency and water companies, such as Thames Water Utilities and Affinity Water, as part of 'ENDOWS', the final work package of the NERC-funded 'UK Drought and Water Scarcity Programme' designed to maximise the impacts of the Programme for a diverse range of stakeholders. The GDI will enable the work of ENDOWS, for example the development of standardised stress tests for water resources and drought planning at company to national scales and new drought indicators and early warning systems, to be far more impactful for existing partners through inclusion of the extended drought status and impacts datasets produced by the GDI (see Letter of Support from the Environment Agency).

Hydrogeologists in the British Geological Survey produce monthly Groundwater Situation Reports and contribute to the UK Hydrological Outlooks service (in collaboration with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Environment Agency and the Met. Office). The latter being a forward look out to three months of surface water and groundwater status in the UK. These reports and services are used extensively by water resource managers, the agricultural sector and industry to inform management and operational decisions, as well as by the public in the UK. If used to inform these reports and services during episodes of drought, the outputs from the GDI would mark a significant advance in groundwater drought status reporting in the UK and would add significant value to the users of these reports and services.

To realise the impacts of the GDI within Europe, the GDI will work closely with the European Drought Centre (EDC) to publish and disseminate the work of the GDI (see Letters of Support from the EDC) through their website. The EDC website is accessed and used by a wide range of water resource professionals as well as the public who would for the first time have access to European-scale groundwater drought status information. In addition, to reach the widest possible user community across Europe, information about the work of and outputs from the GDI will be provided through the European Inventory of Groundwater Research (EIGR) on the KINDRA website (KINDRA is a new EC-funded Horizon 2020 project synthesising a European-wide assessment of groundwater-related practical and scientific knowledge).

IGRAC, the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre, is the UNESCO Global Groundwater Centre, with a mission is to contribute to world-wide availability of relevant information and knowledge on the groundwater resources of the world, with particular emphasis on developing countries, in order to support sustainable use and management of the groundwater resources. IGRAC initiated the Global Groundwater Monitoring Network (GGMN) to improve quality and accessibility of groundwater monitoring information and knowledge on the state of groundwater resources and it is supported by many global and regional partners. The GDI will work closely with IGRAC to make sure that synergies between the GDI and the GGMN related to groundwater data analysis and reporting are maximised (see Letter of Support) and to enable the impacts of the GDI for researchers and water resource managers to be realised beyond Europe.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Resources of groundwater harmonized at cross-border and pan- European scale (RESOURCE). See https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/207192/factsheet/en & http://geoera.eu/ & http://geoera.eu/projects/resource9/
Amount € 10,000,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 731166 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2021
 
Description Analysis of the impacts of groundwater drought in Portugal 
Organisation University of Lisbon
Country Portugal 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Benedikt Heudorfer NERC projectPDRA working with Susana Dias (ISA Lisbon) on the the analysis of groundwater drought impacts in Portugal
Collaborator Contribution Working with Susana Dias (ISA Lisbon) on the the analysis of groundwater drought impacts in Portugal
Impact None yet
Start Year 2019
 
Description Analysis of the impacts of groundwater drought in Spain 
Organisation Complutense University of Madrid
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Benedikt Heudorfer NERC PRDA working with Julia Urquijo (CU Madrid) on the analysis of groundwater drought impacts in Spain.
Collaborator Contribution Julia Urquijo (CU Madrid) on the analysis of groundwater drought impacts in Spain.
Impact None yet
Start Year 2019
 
Description Member of the EuroGeoSurveys GeoERA ERANet Network 
Organisation Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Join network of hydrogeoscientists across Europe assessing extent of groundwater resources at European scale. Expected to produce impacts on water resource policy and planning at European scale over next 5 to 10 years in the context of review / refresh of EU Water Framework and Groundwater Directives.
Collaborator Contribution TNO partners co-coordinating and leading the network.
Impact Not yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description A talk by John Bloomfield as follows: • JP Bloomfield, B Brauns, D Cuba, DM. Hannah, B Heudorfer, B Marchant, AF Van Loon. Characterising the effects of major episodes of drought on groundwater at the national to continental scale. Drought and Water Scarcity: addressing current and future challenges, International Academic Conference. Pembroke College, Oxford University, 20th - 21st March 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of the presentation is to disseminate information about the GDI to a wide audience including policy makers, those from the water industry in the UK and third sector organisations representing environmental and farming interests in the UK. In particular, the talk emphasises the benefits of understanding the large-scale spatio-temporal development of groundwater droughts and the implications for local-scale decision making.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://aboutdrought.info/conference/
 
Description Blog post by Anne Van Loon discussing the significance and availability of data in assessing hydrological extremes on the European Drought Centre (EDC) website at http://europeandroughtcentre.com/2018/06/11/data-drought-or-data-flood/ , June 11th 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blog post intended to raise the profile of the GDI project in general, and in particular highlight the value and importance of hydrological data for the better understanding of and better decision making around hydrological extremes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://europeandroughtcentre.com/2018/06/11/data-drought-or-data-flood/
 
Description John Bloomfield attend the UKRI / NERC Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) Constructing a Digital Environment programme workshop on 12 March 2019 at the Manchester Conference Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop brings together members of the 'digital environment' community including environmental science, informatics, computer science, statistics and social science, along with policymakers and businesses, to develop connections and explore how environmental data can be further taken in to the digital space. John Bloomfield represents and describes the work of the GDI in particular and more broadly the work of BGS in groundwater resource assessments. The importance of access to observational data, how data streams can be combined to add value to hydrological services, and the critical importance of developing fit for purpose services for industry and the public is emphasised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://nerc.ukri.org/innovation/activities/environmentaldata/digitalenv/news/digital-workshop/
 
Description Paper presented by John Bloomfield at EGU as follows: • Bloomfield JP, Bentje Brauns, David Hannah, Chris Jackson, Ben Marchant and Anne Van Loon. 2018. The Groundwater Drought Initiative (GDI): Characterising and analysing groundwater drought across Europe. EGU, Vienna, 12th April 2018, session HS4.4 Drought and water scarcity: monitoring, modelling and forecasting to improve hydro-meteorological risk management 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation described the work of the GDI and was aimed at gaining new partners to be involved with the initiative. We had a series of valuable discussions about the GDI with a wide range of academics many of whom have since joined the Initiative.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2018/EGU2018-4540.pdf
 
Description Presentation of paper by Bentje Brauns as follows: • Brauns B, Bloomfield JP, Hannah D, Jackson C, Marchant B, and Van Loon A. 2018. The Groundwater Drought Initiative (GDI): Analysing and understanding groundwater drought across Europe. 8th Global FRIEND-Water Conference, Hydrological Processes and Water Security in a Changing World, Beijing, China, November 6-9, 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper presented at the 8th Global FRIEND-Water Conference, Hydrological Processes and Water Security in a Changing World, Beijing, China, November 6-9, 2018 led to debate on the role of groundwater in the understanding and management of hydrological drought.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://8thfriendwater.iwhr.org/40?lang=en
 
Description Professor David Hannah, Professor of Hydrology in GEES and UNESCO Chair in Water Sciences, Anne van Loon, Senior Lecture in Physical Geography present a Royal Geographical Society Teacher CPD Master Class titled "Water in a changing world", 10 July 2018, University of Birmingham. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The University of Birmingham, in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), ran a Water and Carbon training event for geography teachers, aiming to support those interested in developing resources for the new A level specification. The session included a strong focus on understanding both cycles and the links between them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.rgs.org/schools/teacher-cpd/
 
Description Talk by Anne Van Loon at Drought workshop organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in Chile, 21 November 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation titled "Human-drought interactions in the Anthropocene" (co-authors Doris Wendt, Benedikt Heudorfer & John Bloomfield) at the Drought workshop organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in Chile, 21 November 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.agromet.cl/sites/default/files/Programa%20Workshop%20Propag%20Sequia%2021%20nov%20-%20vp...
 
Description Talk by Anne Van Loon at seminar at retirement symposium of Henny Van Lanen, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, 9 February 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk titled "Groundwater Drought in Europe" (co-authors Doris Wendt & John Bloomfield), seminar at retirement symposium of Henny Van Lanen, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, 9 February 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk by Anne Van Loon at the LIST (Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology), Luxembourg, 30 October 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk titled "Groundwater Drought in Europe" (co-authors Doris Wendt, Benedikt Heudorfer & John Bloomfield), presented as a department seminar LIST (Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology), Luxembourg, 30 October 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.list.lu/en/event/list-water-lectures-seminar-series-2018-11
 
Description Talk by Anne Van Loon to department seminar VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Belgium, 13 February 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk titled "Groundwater Drought in Europe" (co-authors Doris Wendt & John Bloomfield), department seminar VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Belgium, 13 February 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk by Anne Van Loon to general public at meeting of the Open University Geological Society East Midlands branch, 15 December2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk titled "Groundwater Drought in UK & Europe" (co-authors Doris Wendt & John Bloomfield), talk to general public at meeting of the Open University Geological Society East Midlands branch, 15 December 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018