Adequate groundwater quantity and quality are crucial both to securing the water supply and to maintaining natural diversity. Groundwater is often a high-quality and safe source of crude water. The discharge of groundwater into springs, bogs, rivers and lakes constitutes an important habitat for many animal and plant species. Groundwater lakes and rivers also have important recreational value.
In Finland, the amount of water held in the soil is greater than the volume of water in surface systems. The state and quantity of water resources are dependent on the formation of groundwater as well as various biogeochemical processes. Large groundwater reserves guarantee that at times of low flow, especially in mid-winter and during dry summers, rivers do not dry up. Groundwater often plays a major role in small water systems. However, there are still aspects of this role that remain poorly understood.
Groundwater reserves are exposed to the same threats of deterioration as surface water. Agriculture, though, presents a threat in coastal regions only, where in some places groundwater deposits lie under cultivated clay soils. The drainage of wetlands for forestry in the vicinity of eskers can increase the discharge of groundwater and so constitute an additional threat to groundwater. The use of salt to de-ice roads poses yet another threat to groundwater, as do petrol stations, traffic and the built environment more generally. The extraction of water from groundwater sources impacts the quantity of groundwater available, preventing its natural discharge into the environment. Groundwater areas are almost always in the vicinity of unique ecosystems, which are dependent on access to adequate high-quality groundwater. These ecosystems are liable to suffer if the quantity of groundwater is affected by land use or water extraction.
The AQVI project is a multidisciplinary consortium intended to research groundwater from a hydrology, ecology and environmental sociology point of view. Its main focus is on the effects of wetland drainage on groundwater resources and on possibilities to rehabilitate wetlands and in this way to restore water sources. Various models are used to compute groundwater flows and the effects of land use and climate change. A special area of interest is to research the socio-economic effects of any changes on forestry. The aim of the project is to establish comprehensive management of groundwater. This will require the harmonisation of land use and groundwater ecosystem services among various interest groups. Working closely with local stakeholders and authorities, the project will develop a model for the sustainable management of land use in groundwater areas.