Industry

Groundwater is a key resource for many industries, and contributes to employment and economic growth. Various industrial processes make use of groundwater resources where surface water is limited in quantity but also where quality is important.
Water bottling line
Last update: April 21, 2022

Industries that withdraw groundwater include manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, energy generation, engineering, and construction. Many production processes need a large amount of water for washing and cleaning their products at the end of production.

Their combined withdrawals can lead to stronger competition between the different industries, as well as with other sectors such as agriculture and human settlements, and ecosystems.

19%

Industry and energy account for 19% of global freshwater withdrawals, including groundwater.

5 to 57%

Industrial withdrawal varies from 5% in Africa to 57% in Europe.

The beverage, bottled and mineral water sectors are unique in that groundwater is a raw material, which becomes the product. Large international food and beverage companies are in increasing competition and in dispute with local communities and municipalities over the amount that can be withdrawn without depleting local groundwater resources and affecting domestic and other supplies.

The energy sector appears to use relatively little groundwater (globally), but it has significant effects on groundwater quality. Coal used in the generation of thermal electricity can affect groundwater quality through its deleterious environmental effects such as CO2 and mercury emissions and air quality impacts. Fracking for natural gas, particularly in shallow aquifers, can also present significant risks to groundwater contamination.

Groundwater is often used in mineral extraction and processing.

Industry is paying increasing attention to the risks and consequent challenges to its freshwater supply
Groundwater well drilling

The industrial sector has a strong potential for limiting water pollution. Groundwater remediation techniques treat polluted groundwater by removing the pollutants to acceptable levels; however, water recycling should have the priority.

The mining industry, through its various activities, may collect important data on the location and extent of aquifers and their properties and made publicly available to hydrogeologists, governments and water supply utilities.

To reduce or avoid negative impacts of industrial groundwater use, water has to be used responsibly, taking into account local water scarcity issues, and sensitive water reservoirs.

Other editions

UN World Water Development Report