The project

Strategic groundwater reserves are being depleted. Demand for water is rising as the global population grows and food shortages increase. Global demand for water will peak dramatically in the coming decades as industrial production doubles. That is precisely why it is important for large, global enterprises to have a clear picture of water availability. To help establish that picture, Deltares has teamed up with Utrecht University to produce maps based on risk indicators for water shortages caused by groundwater stress and declining groundwater levels. As well as multinationals, international donors and aid organisations can make more precise analyses of the investment risks associated with changes in water availability, and so take the appropriate action in good time.

Our role and the results

The World Resources Institute (WRI) asked Deltares to produce a global assessment of the indicators of groundwater risks and sustainable groundwater use against the backdrop of current and historical climatological and socio-economic factors. Maps showing the indicators were drawn up and they will be available soon on the WRI's Aqueduct website. A new, dynamic, planetary groundwater model developed by the University of Utrecht was used to create the maps. This two-layer model not only analyses the water balance, it also calculates the flow of groundwater in large areas and for longer periods of time.

The model shows the areas where the available groundwater is under pressure and where the water table has fallen in recent decades. Vulnerable areas are shown clearly. The results indicate, for example, that areas with intensive industrial activity are vulnerable because groundwater supplies decline there, examples being the west coast of North America, the Nile Delta, the Arab region, southern Africa, northern India, southern Australia and the east coast of Spain.

The study was conducted in 2015. The information will be freely available in the WRI's online Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas in the second quarter of 2016.

Marta Faneca Sanchez (left) en Marijn Kuijper (right)
Groundwater supplies - even the fossil supplies - and the combined use of groundwater and surface water may be the key to solving water shortages in the future. Knowledge in this area could be vital to economic development.
Marta Faneca Sanchez (left) en Marijn Kuijper (right)
Groundwater experts
, Deltares
Charles Iceland
Deltares has teamed up with Utrecht University to produce pioneering global groundwater risk indicators for WRI’s Aqueduct online platform. Analysts of global water resources have been calling for more data on groundwater, and Deltares' work is helping to fill this significant data void.
Charles Iceland
Aqueduct Director, World Resources Institute


In this project Deltares worked together with the following partner:

Universiteit Utrecht
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Marijn Kuijper
Marijn Kuijper
Manager groundwater management
+31 (0)88 335 7860
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Deltares Annual Report 2015