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Water futures

2 July 2012

With rising populations, new technologies, pollutants and a changing climate, the pressures on groundwater have never been greater. A source of drinking water for millions in the UK, groundwater also supports rivers and wetlands, and the plants and wildlife that exist in and around them.

On 6-7 March, the Geological Society will be launching its Environment Network with a two day conference focusing on Water Futures. The conference brings together hydrogeologists and researchers from a range of Earth Science disciplines, to focus on the future of groundwater in the UK and abroad.

Talks include: Mike Stephenson, British Geological Survey, 'Shale gas and groundwater' Despite assurances from many geologists that methane or flack fluid contamination of acquifers is unlikely, there remain few peer-reviewed studies of methane contamination during shale gas fracking. The talk will discuss some of the studies of purported groundwater contamination, and how we can identify natural levels of methane in groundwater.

Jon Finch, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, 'Biomass crops' Bioenergy is anticipated to provide about 10% of the UK's energy requirements as we move to a more sustainable energy policy. There will be a growing market for so called biomass crops, which will lead to major land use change in the UK. High production will lead to high water loss - how will this impact groundwater?

Kevin Hiscock, University of East Anglia, 'Linking groundwater and climate: learning from the past and looking to the future' Changes in climatic patterns since antiquity have determined water supplies and the survival of settled communities. Combined evidence for climatically-driven and human-induced pressures on groundwater resources will be reviewed, and measures for adaptation considered.

Jacob Tompkins, Waterwise, 'Groundwater Crisis?' There is a slow, unrecognised global water crisis. Globally we currently use around 200,000,000 litres per second to grow food, with a large proportion from grounwater. Domestic demand is growing, especially in China, India and the United States. Hydrologists and hydrogeologists must take a political stance on these issues, and shape and influence water policy.