Groundwater is the main source of drinking water and irrigated food production worldwide. The invisible resource is, however, under stress from climate change, societal water withdrawals and long-distance effects – telecouplings. Virtual water trade, that is the water contained in traded products, and remote water supply are two examples of how society manages groundwater in such de-localised contexts. The junior research group ‘regulate’ examines the social-ecological regulation of groundwater against telecoupling effects in an inter- and transdisciplinary research setting. Case studies in Germany, Spain and Croatia provide the empirical basis to inform sustainable groundwater governance in Europe.