Conflicts between ecosystems and human needs for fresh water are increasing. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness in the hydrogeologic community of environmental flows (EFs) and to address the major challenges involved in their protection. Ground water is a key component of EFs, and therefore hydrogeologists are called upon to get involved in the ongoing debates about maintaining healthy riverine ecosystems. Promising opportunities for achieving EFs in both underallocated and overallocated basins as well as new methods for protecting fresh water ecosystems developed in different countries are outlined. EF protection measures include private water trusts, "upside-down instream flow water rights," the "public trust" doctrine, and water markets, among other measures. A number of knowledge gaps are identified, to which hydrogeologists could contribute, such as our rudimentary knowledge about ground water-dependent ecosystems, aspects of stream-aquifer interactions, and the impacts of land-use changes. The values that society places on the different uses of water ultimately determine where the water is allocated. EF requirements can be legitimately recognized and addressed by basing the environmental needs of hydrologic systems on robust science, focusing on increasing the productivity of water use, engaging society in understanding the benefits and costs of decisions that affect ecosystems, and taking advantage of various opportunities for achieving EF goals. ?? 2007 National Ground Water Association.