Unveiling ‘Under the Surface’: a cross-border investigation exposing Europe’s groundwater crisis

After months of cross-border work, we are happy to announce the publication of Under the Surface, the first investigation coordinated by Arena’s Climate Network.

Under the Surface, coordinated by Arena for Journalism in Europe and initiated by Spanish digital media outlet Datadista, delved into official data from European countries to provide a comprehensive overview of the qualitative and quantitative condition of groundwater across Europe.

The cross-border investigative team of 14 journalists at our partner media Le Monde (France), Datadista (Spain), Facta (Italy), De Standaard (Belgium), Reporters United (Greece), Investico (The Netherlands) and Information (Denmark) examined their national data and researched how their countries are affected by the groundwater’s decline and pollution, creating the first interactive map of this kind, providing insight into the perilous state of Europe’s aquifers.

Under the Surface shows that groundwater in the European Union is under such significant pressure from excessive irrigation, industrial over-exploitation, and a cocktail of pollutants, that the resulting water scarcity is serious enough to upend livelihoods and even entire sectors. Our water is disappearing and what remains is facing near-irreversible pollution.

On the Under the Surface website you can find the interactive map, the methodology, and stories from the media partners.

Under the Surface Map
Click on the Datadista map to view the most up-to-date information

You can read the European story and the national stories from our partners on the project’s website.

Further stories will be published in the following days and weeks, so stay tuned.

The project

The idea was born in 2023 at Dataharvest, the European Conference for Investigative Journalism. Inspired by Datadista’s previous investigations into the groundwater in Spain, Arena for Journalism in Europe invited a group of European journalists to the Climate Arena Conference in November 2023, to share ideas and discuss the project’s feasibility.

Arena for Journalism in Europe’s Climate Network funded the project’s preliminary data work and coordinated the media partners. The Climate Network is supported by European Climate Foundation and Laudes Foundation.

Journalismfund Europe provided the project with reporting grants for journalists in Spain, Italy, and Greece, as well as funds to complete the European map.