Standard Article

Vulnerability Mapping of Groundwater Resources

Ground Water Hydrology

  1. Thomas Harter

Published Online: 15 APR 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.gw1236

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Harter, T. 2005. Vulnerability Mapping of Groundwater Resources. Water Encyclopedia. 5:561–566.

Author Information

  1. University of California, Davis, California

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2005


Groundwater vulnerability is a measure of the likelihood that pollution or contamination at the land surface reaches a production aquifer. It is a measure of the “degree of insulation” that natural and man-made factors provide to keep pollution away from groundwater. The term was first used in Europe in the 1960s. In defining groundwater vulnerability, a number of issues must be examined and clarified; all refer to these two questions: vulnerability of what? and vulnerability to what Exact definitions of groundwater vulnerability have therefore varied.

In principle, all groundwater is vulnerable to human activity; no groundwater is completely isolated from the aboveground environment. The degree of vulnerability depends on environmental conditions, on how we define groundwater and the part of groundwater in which we are interested in (hence the question, “vulnerability of what?”), and on the timescale of interest. In addition, it depends on whether or not a vulnerability measure is intended to account also for the presence and type of pollutants (hence, “vulnerability to what?”).


  • vulnerability;
  • groundwater;
  • susceptibility;
  • index-and-overlay methods;
  • groundwater modeling