“Water is vital; water scarcity is also food scarcity.”

Research Focus: Global Hydrology and water resources, Groundwater Depletion, Water Scarcity, Groundwater Hydrology, Scaling Theory and Geostatistics

Marc Bierkens (1965) is professor of Earth Surface Hydrology and researcher at Deltares. He investigates whether sufficient water will be available in the future for a growing world population. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union. He is also a member of the European Geosciences Union and the International Association of Hydrological Sciences and is editor of Water Resources Research.

Research focus on global water scarcity and groundwater

His current research focuses on hydrological modelling on a global scale in relation to climate change and water availability. His research group contributed to the mapping of water scarcity and groundwater depletion worldwide and groundwater salinization in coats and deltas. Water scarcity occurs when the demand for water exceeds the amount of available water. This increasingly the case in the Netherlands; drinking water companies are running up against their limits due to the high demand for water and the low groundwater level, which also affects farmers and nature reserves.

Global groundwater depletion

His research shows that about 25% of the world's irrigation water is obtained in an unsustainable way. This amount has tripled since 1960. This leads to groundwater depletion in many parts of the world and to salinization of fresh groundwater reserves of coasts and deltas.


He co-organised the IAHS ModelCARE conference in 2005 in The Netherlands. He was supervisor on 26 completed PhD theses and has been a committee member on > 90. Marc Bierkens (co-) authored about 250 publications, > 190 of which appeared in international peer-reviewed journals. He is principal author of the book “Upscaling and Downscaling Methods for Environmental Research” (2002), co-author of the book “Sampling for Natural Resource Monitoring” (2006) and editor of the book “Climate and the Hydrological Cycle” (2008).


He received his MSc in Hydrology from Wageningen University (1990) and a PhD in Physical Geography from Utrecht University (1994). Between 1994 and 2002 he worked as a senior scientist and team leader at Alterra Research Institute in Wageningen. He became professor of Hydrology at Utrecht University in 2002, where he served as chair of the Department of Physical Geography between 2009-2015. He now serves as Vice Dean of Research for the Faculty of Geosciences. He was chairman of the Boussinesq Center, the network of university hydrology groups in the Netherlands (2007-2011) and of the Netherlands Hydrology Society (2011-2017), which represents over 600 Dutch hydrology professionals.


Earth Surface Hydrology
Inaugural lecture date