Join the Water Dissensus: I say ’aquifer’ and she says ‘groundwater’ – Does it matter?

Groundwater discharge from a karstic aquifer in Montenegro (photo: Shammy Puri).

The Water Dissensus is a forum of the journal Water Alternatives. It provides a platform for critical debates about contemporary water issues. Dissensus – antagonistic points of view – is turned into a fruitful and constructive learning opportunity for the benefit of all interested parties. It allows for reasoned dialogue that has the potential to enhance understanding and appreciation of complex water issues, and to generate new ideas.

An earlier dissensus was the debate titled Groundwater shortage or crisis narratives are restricting development in Sub-Saharan Africa? held in May 2020. The outcome of this debate was summarized as part of a broader blog titled Can groundwater cushion Africa from future shocks, and spark development?

The current dissensus addresses the issue of whether it matters using the term ‘groundwater’ or ‘aquifer’, and how being more explicit with the correct use of terminology can support more informed dialogue and ultimately more sustainable development, use and management of these underground resources. In the current debate titled I say ’aquifer’ and she says ‘groundwater’ … Let’s call the whole thing off… (with apologies to Ella Fitzgerald & Satchmo), Shammy Puri and Karen G. Villholth, both groundwater specialists with many years of practical experience, put forward the contention that “Groundwater regulatory policies frequently overlook the key features of the reservoir that the resource comes from, i.e., the aquifer, the host and conveyer for this water. We consider this omission is an underlying reason for the widely recognized chaos and ‘silent decline’ in the resources of many intensively used aquifers.”

In turn, they argue that “Hydrogeologists should commit to communicating clearly to policy makers. They must be explicit that the hosts and sources of various waters are distinct, while interconnected, and they need to be managed by targeted, yet complementary/conjunctive measures.” As recently stated by Prof. David Kreamer, President, International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), a partner in the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP), “… the lack of systemic communication … on groundwater … is one of the most significant impediments to sound management and governance …” The postulate of systemic communication is about accepting responsibility for what is received by the listener and not simply for what has been sent out by the transmitter.

Read the full argumentation, examples underpinning it, and feel free to follow the debate and contribute your views, experiences and suggestions to further inform and fuel the dissensus.

End of the dissensus: June 04, 2021

Follow the current Water Dissensus on the terminology around ‘aquifer’ and ‘groundwater’

View previous Water Dissensus related to groundwater

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