Groundwater governance is a complex process involving the collective influences of opinion on policy and management. Achieving sustainability of water supply from aquifers is major management challenge worldwide that is impacted on the supply-side by changing weather patterns, loss of groundwater inventory because of current and legacy contamination, and because of past over-exploitation. On the water supply demand-side, managers have to balance allocation decisions to satisfy the needs of changing demographics, ecological requirements, water rights and entrenched vested interests.
Science-based decisions should be the foundation of groundwater sustainability policies and the basis for regulatory frameworks to achieve safe drinking water supply. Groundwater specialists should be in the forefront of helping with scientific awareness and technology transfer endeavors to end-users, citizens, community leaders, regulators and elected officials. The public needs help navigating the minefield of information and misinformation about groundwater resources. This paper examines some current groundwater issues in America and outlines strategies that provide groundwater professionals with an objective platform to influence “opinions”
Included in the discussion will be the problem of groundwater legacy contamination from PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances). As more evidence emerges about the extent of PFAS contamination, the public in affected areas has growing concerns. With impartial guidance to help frame the issues, outreach strategies can communicate solution-based information to inform opinion by combining private sector-expertise, legal perspectives, regulatory authority, and local community representation in single event platforms.
An additional focus for the discussion will be the education and outreach approaches that can help achieve policies to solve the impacts of aquifer overdraft. An education route to achieve sustainability is for groundwater professionals to engage with stakeholders and decision-makers who are not professionally in the water sector. The key to achieving science based groundwater management policy is to make groundwater understandable to policy-makers (elected representatives), groundwater end-users (stakeholders), organizations and interest groups, the news media and people active with social media.
In the traditional top-down approach to managing groundwater the “experts” knew best what was required. The contemporary bottom-up approach requires a broad base of support. Direct involvement in education and outreach by groundwater professionals can help achieve data transparency and jargon-free explanations of the science of groundwater. The presentation considers ways in which effective outreach can assist positive outcomes for sustainability.