Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



Climate Ready Boston, Boston Research Advisory Group, climate change, groundwater, Boston


Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Policy | Environmental Sciences | Sustainability


Groundwater is important for human health and the environment but has often been overlooked in the development of climate change adaptation strategies. This is because groundwater is rarely visible, and because changes in groundwater levels are not as dramatic as extreme flooding events, coastal storms, and storm surge. The importance of groundwater for drinking water, natural resources, and streamflow is well documented. Groundwater levels are also important considerations in the design of pavements, underground infrastructure, foundations, on-site wastewater treatment systems, and in the remediation of hazardous waste disposal areas. Groundwater is especially important in the wet northeast, where groundwater levels tend to be shallow and impactful. It is typically assumed that on average groundwater levels are not changing. This is no longer true with climate change.

Groundwater is the world’s largest distributed source of fresh water and is important for both ecosystems and human consumption. Groundwater levels are affected directly by recharge (water infiltrating the ground surface and moving into the groundwater system) and water losses through groundwater discharge to surface water bodies and groundwater withdrawals from aquifers. Many factors influence the amount of groundwater recharge that occurs. These include precipitation, temperature, evapotranspiration, land cover and land use, soil moisture, and topography. Climate change is affecting the global water cycle by increasing rates of ocean evaporation, terrestrial evapotranspiration, and precipitation.

Precipitation, temperatures, and sea levels are all projected to increase in the northeast due to climate change. These factors can result in long-term and seasonal changes in groundwater levels potentially impacting drinking water supplies, water quality, the useful life of pavements and underground infrastructure, and flooding.

Community Engaged/Serving

Part of the UMass Boston Community-Engaged Teaching, Research, and Service Series. //



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