Significance of Clean Water as a Critical Resource Grows ‒ Managed Aquifer Recharge Improves the Security and Sustainability of Water Supply

The adequacy of the current groundwater resources is a common cause of concern in a world where water consumption is increasing along with the population and standard of living. In Finland, our expertise in water management is the result of conditions and long-term cooperation. As the significance of clean drinking water as a critical resource continues to grow, several factors favour the export potential of Finnish water expertise. For a long time, the Geological Survey of Finland GTK has been developing managed aquifer recharge (MAR) solutions, which can become a key factor in the systemic change in water production.

African girl transporting water from a well in a natural environment.

Despite the exceptionally abundant groundwater reserves, Finland has used MAR for water supply for more than a hundred years. As a result, Finland has unique expertise in MAR solutions.

Simply put, MAR means producing groundwater with artificial means by utilising nature’s own recharge mechanisms and attenuation processes. For example, natural groundwater reserves are restored or improved by infiltrating surface water or collecting water during the rainy season and recharging the aquifer in a controlled manner. Currently, Finland has approximately 30 MAR plants, and the water supplied by them is used daily by hundreds of thousands of Finns.

MAR applications have a long list of positive qualities. MAR can be used to control or minimize risks related to the overexploitation of groundwater, such as saline intrusion and land subsidence. Precipitation, floods and variation in the dry and rainy seasons pose risks to the quantity and quality of groundwater resources which can be controlled with MAR methods.

In addition, when appropriately implemented, MAR is an environmentally friendly, reliable and cost-effective way to ensure year-round water supply in different climatic conditions.

“The changing climate has increased extreme weather events that in turn increase the need for MAR expertise around the world. MAR could very well be a game changer – a large systemic change intended to produce more clean drinking water around the world,” says Jussi Ahonen, Account Manager for Water Management Solutions at GTK.

Finnish water expertise at its best

Finnish water expertise is highly valued abroad. Finns are considered impartial and reliable operators who cooperate without ulterior motives. Decades of development collaboration has produced positive experiences, and Finnish products and services are considered to be of high quality.

Clean drinking water is already a valuable resource in regions experiencing a shortage of water. Producing drinking water from seawater is a common solution in areas where water resources are naturally scarce. However, desalination consumes a lot of energy, and it is mostly used in areas where affordable oil is available.

Extreme weather events also threaten the quality and quantity of groundwater in several areas. It is predicted that drought will increase and expand. On the other hand, extreme rain events and floods can deteriorate the quality of groundwater. MAR can be used to mitigate the effects of extreme events and used as a buffer to overcome long-term seasonal fluctuation.

“Climate change and the green transition challenge the current water supply solutions. The outlook is positive for international operations because MAR applications are becoming better known, and international interest and demand has increased,” says Jussi Ahonen.

Possibilities of MAR are studied in development cooperation in Vietnam

GTK has had the opportunity to study the possibilities of MAR in practice, as well as their export potential, in development cooperation project in Vietnam funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The aim is to raise awareness of local expert organisations in sustainable water resource management methods and to strengthen their capacity in implementing MAR projects.

“We have aimed to provide the local experts with more information about the benefits and challenges of MAR. Our common goal has been to secure a sufficient water supply and ensure the availability of high-quality water during the dry season as well. The Viet MAR project includes two pilot sites where we have demonstrated and implemented the geological, geochemical and hydrogeological studies required to produce the background data for the MAR project,” says Jaana Jarva, Chief Expert at GTK.

The piloting aims to capacity building of experts and authorities alike in the methods and tools required in MAR projects as well as the interpretation of the results. The project is studying solutions to topical issues related to water supply, and MAR could be one of the options. Questions like how the quality of groundwater varies by year and by season, and what the potential threats are to groundwater quality, such as salinisation, geological conditions and human activities. And whether the aquifer recharge can be increased during the rainy season by infiltrating rainwater into the aquifer, or how the amount of bank infiltration can be increased without any harmful effects on the groundwater.

The continuity and transfer of capacity to local actors are key elements of development cooperation. MAR solutions can have a positive impact on a global scale when awareness and understanding of their benefits arise.

Sampling from groundwater observation wells in Quy Nhon, Vietnam. Observation wells are used to monitor the groundwater table level in different seasons. For example, water samples are used to analyse water quality and the ratio of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes to assess the surface water percentage in groundwater. Photo: Geological Survey of Finland.

Additional information

Jussi Ahonen
Account Manager
Water Management, Geological Survey of Finland GTK
Tel. +358 29 503 2146

Jaana Jarva
Project Manager, Viet MAR
Environmental Solutions, Geological Survey of Finland GTK
Tel. +358 29 503 2333

Project introduction
Viet MAR – Managed aquifer recharge to ensure sustainable groundwater availability and quality under ongoing climate change and fast economic development in Vietnam

Finland`s international water strategy (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)
Finnish Water Way – Finland’s international water strategy

Introduction to Finnish water expertise
Finnish Water Forum