Karen G. Villholth has more than 25 years of experience in groundwater resources assessment and management. She deals with research, policy advice, and capacity development related to groundwater irrigation for smallholders, transboundary aquifers, groundwater resources assessment and modelling, climate change and groundwater, adaptation through underground solutions, role of depleting aquifers in global food production, groundwater and eco-system services, and groundwater management and governance for institutions at various levels, from local to global. She engages with multidisciplinary teams and stakeholders in co-developing tools, approaches, and policies to a more sustainable use of groundwater for livelihoods, food security, and environmental integrity.
Karen is a Principal Researcher and a sub-Theme Leader, working with IWMI, International Water Management Institute, from the Southern Africa regional office in Pretoria, South Africa. She is leading the global IWMI-led partnership initiative on Groundwater Solutions for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) that aims to enhance attention to and improvement in groundwater management in countries heavily reliant on groundwater for irrigation and food production.
Karen holds a PhD in Groundwater Assessment and a MSc in Chemical Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark and a MSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington. She previously worked for DHI-Water and Environment and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. She is co-Manager on two Commissions within IAH, the International Association of Hydrogeologists: the one on Groundwater for Decision Makers and the one on Governance of Transboundary Aquifers. She is co-author of three books related to groundwater and more than 50 peer-reviewed journal papers.
Keynote on "The Role of Groundwater in Achieving Water Security and Approaches to its Governance"
Karen G. Villholth, IWMI, International Water Management Institute, Pretoria, South Africa
Groundwater is integral to water security. It is the largest store of unfrozen freshwater on earth, and it serves almost half of the global population for basic water needs. In addition, it contributes more than 40% of the irrigation water globally. Groundwater also secures critical ecosystems and ecosystem services, on which people and the environment depend. This paper gives an overview of the significance of groundwater and the critical interlinkages in the Water-Food-Energy-Climate-Environment nexus. It also discusses how opportunities for bringing in groundwater as part of the solutions to water security at various levels are often missed out. Examples are given of how research can contribute to moving forward to ensure that groundwater plays a stronger role in achieving the SDGs. Realizing that sustainable groundwater development, use and management hinges on conscious and pro-active governance, the presentation gives an highlight of the upcoming book on Advances in Groundwater Governance. Finally, some recent developments in terms of developing global platforms and initiative to work across disciplines, sectors and levels and geographic boundaries to address groundwater management challenges are presented, including GRIPP, the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice and the Working Group on Groundwater Management under the Sustainable Water Future Program. These initiatives are emerging with strong buy-in from stakeholders at various levels, from local to global.
Keywords: Groundwater, Water-Food-Energy-Climate-Environment nexus, SDGs, governance, global platforms