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As the largest liquid freshwater reservoir on earth, groundwater has both a huge environmental and economic value, and will be an essential resource for adaptation to climate change and reduction of socio-economic vulnerability, particularly in regions where freshwater availability is highly variable and frequently limited.

Several factors foster the need for a more comprehensive and multidisciplinary educational groundwater programme.


First, groundwater is a component of the water cycle interacting with all other components at various temporal and spatial scales.


Second, groundwater systems are largely interdependent with socio-economic development. The presence of important and productive aquifers can boost socio-economic development and alleviate poverty in low-income countries by providing water for public supply and sustainable irrigation, increasing (environmental-friendly) land use efficiency.


On the other hand, the continuous growth of the world population and the socio-economic development of many countries has already caused, and will continue to cause, large impacts on freshwater (including groundwater) systems through uncontrolled exploitation, causing depletion, seawater intrusion, reduction in baseflows in rivers and ecological flows sustaining freshwater ecosystems, or land subsidence. 

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a brief introduction to GroundwatCh by programme coordinator Dr. Tibor Stigter

Third, climate change is foreseen to affect freshwater availability globally, with several hotspots, among which many areas that currently already suffer periods of severe droughts and freshwater scarcity, such as the Mediterranean area of southern Europe and Northern Africa, northeast China, northern and south-western Latin America, large parts of Australia and the western United States, among others. Fourth, important feedback mechanisms exist between groundwater (and its use), climate and global change, which vary in time and space.


The existence of groundwater at shallow depths for instance has a large influence on processes occurring in the atmospheric boundary layer, whereas lateral groundwater flow towards rivers and wetlands sustains surface moisture levels that feed back into the regional climate. Groundwater-supported evapotranspiration can significantly contribute to the overall water balance, whereas groundwater-fed irrigation increases evapotranspiration rates overall, possibly affect the precipitation regime.

Min Lu China

"This Erasmus programme focuses on groundwater and global changes which is of growing importance nowadays and in the future. Two years of study in three different countries is an excellent experience to build up professional skills. Moreover, it is a good opportunity to meet classmates from all over the world, enjoy Europe and have a lot of fun!" Read more

GroundwatCH seeks to offer a distinctive curriculum built on the cornerstones of hydro(geo)logy, climatology, impacts and adaptation, within a framework of human pressures, global change and feedbacks, around the following academic focal areas:

  • Hydrogeology;

  • Groundwater data collection, interpretation and modelling;

  • Climate processes and modelling;

  • Groundwater-surface water-climate interactions;

  • Integrated river basin and water resources management;

  • Groundwater and environmental impacts;

  • Groundwater, society and policies;

  • Groundwater in adaptation to global change.

With this curriculum GroundwatCH aims to address the current gaps in higher education with regard to the understanding of the interactions between groundwater, surface water, climate and global change, and how we need to consider and can benefit from these interactions when dealing with adaptation.

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