Focus |

Groundwater

A vast store of freshwater that circulates beneath the land surface is increasingly tapped to serve the water needs of human communities. Groundwater represents the largest component of the active hydrological cycle and its movement through the subsurface affects many aspects of the Earth system. In this focus, we present a collection of research papers and opinion pieces that discuss the influence of groundwater on hydrological, environmental and geological processes.

Content

Groundwater flow meddles with hydrological, environmental and geological processes. As water scarcity issues mount for people living above ground, the vast stores of freshwater in the subsurface require research attention.

Editorial | | Nature Geoscience

Drought management is inefficient because feedbacks between drought and people are not fully understood. In this human-influenced era, we need to rethink the concept of drought to include the human role in mitigating and enhancing drought.

Commentary | | Nature Geoscience

A global picture of the age structure and flow path of groundwater is lacking. Tritium concentrations and numerical modelling shed light on both the most recently replenished and the longest stored groundwater within Earth's continents.

News & Views | | Nature Geoscience

Groundwater recharged less than 50 years ago is vulnerable to contamination and land-use changes. Data and simulations suggest that up to 6% of continental groundwater is modern—forming the largest component of the active hydrologic cycle.

Article | | Nature Geoscience

From the archives

Multiple factors determine how much water is and will be available in the river basins of Asia. To expose hotspots and help adaptation, these factors must be assessed together at the basin level.

Commentary | | Nature Geoscience

Earthquake prediction is a long-sought goal. Changes in groundwater chemistry before earthquakes in Iceland highlight a potential hydrogeochemical precursor, but such signals must be evaluated in the context of long-term, multiparametric data sets.

News & Views | | Nature Geoscience

Changes in terrestrial water storage are likely to affect sea level, but comprehensive and reliable data are scarce. Simulations of global terrestrial water stocks and flows, with an integrated model that specifically accounts for human activities, indicate that groundwater depletion and reservoir storage have together led to a sea-level rise of about 0.66 mm yr−1 between 1961 and 2003, about 36% of the observed rise.

Letter | | Nature Geoscience

In the course of the transfer of precipitation into rivers, water is temporarily stored in reservoirs with different residence times. Analyses of precipitation and discharge records from Nepal suggest that in addition to snow and glacier melt and evapotranspiration, groundwater storage in a fractured basement aquifer also affects the annual discharge cycle of Himalayan rivers.

Letter | | Nature Geoscience

The subsurface of Mars could potentially have contained a vast microbial biosphere. An evaluation of the possibility of groundwater upwelling, which might provide clues to subsurface habitability, reveals evidence in the deep McLaughlin crater for clays and carbonates that probably formed in an alkaline, groundwater-fed lacustrine setting.

Article | | Nature Geoscience