Groundwater and the LWEC Water Climate Change Impacts Report Card

Cuckmere River views, South Downs, East Sussex

The Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) Partnership has published a Water Climate Change Impacts Report Card.

The report card looks at the effect of climate change on fresh water — including groundwater.

It is intended to help people understand the scale of possible change and to help inform decisions about the way that water is managed.

What could happen to groundwater recharge and levels?

The report card summarises the science relating to possible climate change impacts on groundwater recharge and levels thus:

‘Most, but not all, studies agree that there may be a decrease in recharge to groundwater throughout the century.

By the 2050s changes in groundwater recharge are projected to be somewhere in the range from a 30% reduction up to a 20% increase.

There is most agreement for chalk catchments in southern England, where increased temperatures may contribute to a reduction in the length of the recharge season (groundwater recharge occurs mainly between late autumn and early spring).’

There is currently limited evidence in this area, for example, there are large regions of the UK where no climate change impact studies on recharge have been undertaken. The report card includes an assessment of the degree of confidence in each statement.

What could happen to groundwater temperature and quality?

The potential effects on climate change on UK groundwater temperature and quality are not well known:

‘There has been little research on how groundwater temperature may change.

Groundwater quality is expected to respond to changes in recharge and the presence of pollutants and nutrients, but the scale and pattern of changes is unclear.’

BGS input to the report card

BGS staff contributed to the report card and authored two of the ten science evidence papers that underpin the report card: one paper on the historic evidence for the impact of climate change on groundwater levels, temperature and quality, and one on future impacts of climate change on groundwater levels.

The BGS is undertaking world-leading research in groundwater and environmental change, including work on the impact of climate change on groundwater levels; the impact of climate change on diffuse pollution; and the impact of climate change on groundwater resources of Africa and South East Asia.

The Living With Environmental Change Partnership

LWEC logo

The Living With Environmental Change Partnership consists of 22 public sector organisations that fund, carry out and use environmental research and observations.

They include the UK research councils, government departments with environmental responsibilities, devolved administrations and government agencies.

BGS groundwater science work has been recognised as being of international importance by LWEC and is LWEC accredited.


Contact Dr John Bloomfield for further information.