While global demand for water increases, the risks from pollution and the uncertainty of climate heighten the threat to available resources. One fifth of the world's freshwater reserves lie underground in the form of groundwater, whereas surface water systems account for a mere two hundredths of the global reserve, and the remainder is locked up—for the moment—in the polar ice caps. However, because groundwater is out of sight, to many this means out of mind. As a result, much of the world's groundwater is poorly managed and exploited for short-term gain at the expense of longer-term protection.

In response to requirements that had been outlined in the European Commission's Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) of 2000, the Commission's European “daughter,” Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC, adopted in December 2006) clarifies the objectives outlined in the Water Framework Directive for groundwater protection in Europe.