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Groundwater, making the invisible visible

Unlocking the immense potential of groundwater today and protecting the resource for tomorrow.

Groundwater accounts for 99% of liquid freshwater on Earth and is the source of one quarter of all the water used by humans. Large volumes of fresh groundwater are present below ground surface and distributed over the entire globe; however, this volume of freshwater is irregularly distributed over the continents.

An easy and open access resource to numerous people, leading to common pool characteristics, groundwater offers tremendous opportunities to society for gaining social, economic and environmental benefits and its contribution to satisfying our demand for water is considerable.

Groundwater already provides half of the volume of water withdrawn for domestic use by the global population, including the drinking water for the vast majority of the rural population who do not get their water delivered to them via public or private supply systems and around 25% of all water withdrawn for irrigation.

Map of groundwater recharge (mm/year)

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The 2022 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report describes the challenges and opportunities associated with the development, management and governance of groundwater across the world.

Groundwater is central to the fight against poverty, to food and water security, to socio-economic development, and to the resilience of societies and economies to climate change.
Yet, groundwater itself, as well as its direct and indirect benefits, has all too often remained unseen or ignored, leaving numerous aquifers inadequately protected.
In the context of growing water scarcity across many parts of the world, the vast potential of groundwater and the need to manage it carefully can no longer be overlooked.
And it all starts by making the invisible visible.

Children at a water pump providing groundwater

Did you know?

for agriculture

The agricultural sector accounts for 69% of all groundwater abstractions

for domestic uses

Domestic uses account for 22% of all groundwater abstractions.

for industry

Industrial purposes account for 9% of all groundwater abstractions.

Nearly 50%
of the global urban population

are believed today to be supplied from groundwater sources.


The United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR) is published by UNESCO, on behalf of UN-Water and its production is coordinated by the UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP).

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Contribution partners

UN-Water members that contributed to the UN World Water Development Report 2022

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