Although it is self-evident that today’s groundwater issues have a history that frames both problems and responses, these histories have received scant attention in the socio-hydrogeological literature to date. This paper aims to enrich the field of socio-hydrogeology with a novel, historical perspective on groundwater management whilst simultaneously demonstrating the value to water history of engaging with groundwater. This is achieved by applying hydrogeological, socio-hydrogeological, and historical methods in an interdisciplinary and collaborative research process while analysing a case study of urban groundwater management over a 150-year period. In the German capital Berlin, local aquifers have always been central to its water supply and, being close to the surface, have made for intricate interactions between urban development and groundwater levels. The paper describes oscillations in groundwater levels across Berlin’s turbulent history and the meanings attached to them. It demonstrates the value to socio-hydrogeology of viewing the history of groundwater through a socio-material lens and to urban history of paying greater attention to subsurface water resources. The invisibility and inscrutability associated with groundwater should not discourage attention, but rather incite curiosity into this underexplored realm of the subterranean city, inspiring scholars and practitioners well beyond the confines of hydrogeology.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited