The Challenge of Making Groundwater Visible: A Review of Communication Approaches and Tools in France

Part of the Global Issues in Water Policy book series (GLOB, volume 24)


Groundwater specialists strive to make groundwater issues visible. They face a dual challenge: first to develop knowledge on groundwater and secondly to share this knowledge with other stakeholders who should be included in knowledge development, groundwater management and protection policy. Questioning communication is all the more interesting as groundwater is a quasi-invisible resource. How groundwater and issues can be made more visible? In the field of sociology, with a pragmatist stance, our chapter questions how instruments frame interactions and represent groundwater. Indeed, the groundwater is made visible by tables, indicators, maps, photographs, videos, games, stories in newspaper and spokespersons such as hydrogeologists. Within a project funded by AFB (French Agency for Biodiversity), we reported on a number of communication approaches and activities implemented in 11 case studies in France. The inventory is based on web mining, grey literature review and interviews. The chapter develops a transversal analysis of the use of the instruments, and identifies assets and limits across the cases according to the following categories: public targeted; content, issues brought to the fore and normative stance adopted; type/format. Finally, concrete recommendations are made.


Mediation Representation Policy instruments Format Participation Spokespersons 



This work has been supported by AFB (French Agency for Biodiversity). The authors would like to thank Bénédicte Augeard, Delphine Loupsans and Claire Magand for stimulating discussions; Xavier Bernard, James Daly and Jeanne Latusek (IFP) for their fruitful contribution to the study; the editors for reviewing the first draft of this chapter and providing valuable comments and all the interviewees who shared their point of view and experiences.


  1. Baldwin, C., Tan, P.-L., White, I., Hoverman, S., & Burry, K. (2012). How scientific knowledge informs community understanding of groundwater. Journal of Hydrology. Scholar
  2. Bouarfa S, & Kuper M (Eds.) (2012). Groundwater governance: Learning from local experiences. Irrigation and Drainage, 61(Supplement S1).Google Scholar
  3. Callon, M., Lascoumes, P., & Barthe, Y. (2009). Acting in an Uncertain World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Curtis, A., Mitchell, M., & Mendham, E. (2016). Social science contributions to groundwater governance. In A. J. Jakeman, O. Barreteau, R. J. Hunt, J.-D. Rinaudo, & A. Ross (Eds.), Integrated groundwater management: Concepts, approaches and challenges (pp. 477–492). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Faysse, N., & Petit, O. (2012). Convergent readings of groundwater governance? Engaging exchanges between different research perspectives. Irrigation and Drainage, 61(S1), 106–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Jakeman, A. J., Barreteau, O., Hunt, R. J., Rinaudo, J.-D., Ross, A., Arshad, M., et al. (2016). Integrated groundwater management: An overview of concepts and challenges. In A. J. Jakeman, O. Barreteau, R. J. Hunt, J.-D. Rinaudo, & A. Ross (Eds.), Integrated groundwater management: Concepts, approaches and challenges (pp. 3–20). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Little, K. E., Hayashi, M., & Liang, S. (2016). Community-based groundwater monitoring network using a citizen-science approach. Groundwater, 54, 317–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Marjolet, G., & Normand, D. (2006). Le Conseil général des Cotes d’Armor: communication et médiation à la Direction ‘Agriculture et Environnement’. Geol-PARIS- 151:50.Google Scholar
  9. Meinzen-Dick, R., Janssen, M. A., Kandikuppa, S., Chaturvedi, R., Rao, K., & Theis, S. (2018). Playing games to save water: Collective action games for groundwater management in Andhra Pradesh, India. World Development, 107, 40–53. Scholar
  10. Mitchell, M., Curtis, A., Sharp, E., & Mendham, E. (2012). Directions for social research to underpin improved groundwater management. Journal of Hydrology, 448–449, 223–231. Scholar
  11. Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the commons: The evolutions of institutions for collective action. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Re, V., & Misstear, B. (2017). How scientific knowledge informs community understanding of groundwater. In Advances in groundwater governance (pp. 215–230). Boca Raton: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Richard-Ferroudji, A. (2014). Rare birds for fuzzy jobs: A new type of water professional at the watershed scale in France. Journal of Hydrology, 519(Part C), 2468–2474. Scholar
  14. Richard-Ferroudji, A. (2019). Ambivalence about groundwater: promoting conservation while justifying over-exploitation in an Indian newspaper. RILE, Revista Interdisciplinar de Literatura e Ecocrítica, 1–2 (pp. 64–92)Google Scholar
  15. Richard-Ferroudji, A., & Barreteau, O. (2012). Assembling different forms of knowledge for participative water management – Insights from the Concert’eau game. In C. Claeys & M. Jacqué (Eds.), Environmental democracy facing uncertainty (pp. 97–120). Bruxelles, Belgium: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  16. Richard-Ferroudji, A., Lassaube, G., Bernard, X., Daly, J., & Latusek, J. (2018). Mise en visibilité des eaux souterraines et de leurs enjeux de gestion- Expériences des syndicats de nappes et structures porteuses de SAGE en France et perspectives indiennes. Paris: AFB/CNRS/IFP.Google Scholar
  17. Shah, T. (2009). Taming the anarchy groundwater governance in South Asia. New Delhi, India: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Thévenot, L., Moody, M., & Lafaye, C. (2000). Forms of valuing nature: Arguments and modes of justification in French and American environmental disputes. In M. Lamont & L. Thévenot (Eds.), Rethinking comparative cultural sociology : repertoires of evaluation in France and the United States (pp. 229–272). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Van Der Gun, J. (2017). Data, information, knowledge and diagnostics on groundwater. In Advances in groundwater governance (pp. 193–214). Boca Raton: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Villholth, K. G., Lopez-Gunn, E., Conti, K., Garrido, A., & Van Der Gun, J. (2017). Advances in groundwater governance. Leiden, The Netherlands: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.French Institute of PondicherryPondicherryIndia
  2. 2.UMR G-EAUMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Centre Emile Durkheim, Institut Français de PondicheryPondicherryIndia

Personalised recommendations