Issues and research needs

Report FR/GF 1

This is a review of the UK's groundwater resources: what is known about them, what is not known and what needs to be known in the context of sustainable exploitation and/or responsible management. Groundwater provides a local and least-cost source for a significant proportion of total public water supply (in many areas exceeding 50%); it preserves dry-weather flows to rivers and maintains important wetland habitats.

Sustainable management of groundwater is important for the long-term viability of the resource within a control framework which is effective in terms of environmental protection without unduly restricting the legitimate uses. Aquifers need protection from contamination, while not unduly limiting economic activity. Trade-offs are implicit in minimising the costs and maximising the collective benefits to the economy, to the environment and to water users. While the decisions involved are influenced by the political climate, they must be informed by a comprehensive understanding of groundwater systems - both aquifers and surface-aquifer connections which are difficult to analyse.

Groundwater research, both short-term and strategic, provides essential underpinning to the sustainable development of resources and the identification of cost-effective strategies for abstraction, protection and remediation. This study has produced a comprehensive statement of the issues currently affecting groundwater resources, an assessment of current understanding and the priorities for future research.

The Report has been produced by the British Geological Survey (BGS) under the direction of a Steering Group representative of the sponsoring organisations (FWR, NERC, NRA, WSA/WCA).

Widespread consultation has been a feature of the study involving water users, government, regulators, scientists and conservation groups. Both BGS and the Steering Group were encouraged by the interest shown and the quality of the feedback from the consultation exercise.

The scope of the Report is illustrated in the adjacent boxes. There are clear recommendations which it is expected will be taken forward for implementation by the UK Groundwater Forum established as part of the consultation exercise.

Copies of the Report are available from FWR, price 20 less 20% to FWR Members.

A complementary report is to be published detailing 31 individual issues papers prepared and reviewed by experts as background to the study.