Karen G. Villholth

Principal Researcher at International Water Management Institute

Karen G. Villholth is Principal Researcher at International Water ManagementInstitute (IWMI, where she worked from 2004-2007 in the Headquarters – Colombo, Sri Lanka, and since 2012 in the Southern Africa Office Pretoria, South Africa. She heads up the Groundwater Program at IWMI and coordinates the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP), a global partnership of 30 international organizations supporting sustainable development, use and management of groundwater.

Karen has more than 25 years’ experience in water research and management. She has embraced significant interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships in groundwater, with the aim to make groundwater science relevant and applicable and useful for decision makers, primarily in developing countries. Examples include the African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW) Pan-African Groundwater Program, Sustainable Water Future Program under Future Earth, Friends of Groundwater under UNEP’s World Water Quality Program, the SuSanANetwork on Sanitation, Advisory Committee for the Groundwater Project, Expert Group on Environmental Flows supporting SDG 6.4.2 under FAO, Expert Group under UNECE on Handbook on Water Allocation in Transboundary Context, Global Groundwater Sustainability Statement and Call to Action, UN-Water Task Force on Unconventional Water Resources under UNU-INWEH, African Groundwater-Network, Rural Water Supply Network, Member of the Permanent Consultative Mechanism for the Groundwater Governance Project, etc.

Her areas of work include research, policy advice, and capacity development inthe following key areas: groundwater irrigation and food security, groundwater and ecosystem services, transboundary aquifers, groundwater resources assessment/modelling, groundwater quality and links to agriculture, sanitation and water supply, climate change and adaptation, groundwater-based natural infrastructure, citizen science, and groundwater management and governance. She engages with partners and stakeholders at local to global level in co-developing tools, capacity, and policies to a more sustainable use and protection of groundwater for livelihoods, resilience, water and food security, and environmental integrity.

Karen holds a PhD and a MSc in Chemical Engineering from Technical University of Denmark and a MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Washington, USA. She previously worked for DHI-Water and Environment and Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. She is editor/author of five books, and more than 70 peer-reviewed journal papers and special issues.

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