The heterogeneous near surface consists of the complex interactions between rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms, which determine the availability of life-sustaining resources such as water. This environment has been increasingly exploited for human needs, such as water supply, to store our waste and food production. To assess the environmental risk associated with such exploitation and exploration, the near surface has to be investigated and characterized with high resolution methods to enhance our understanding of e.g., hydrological and biogeochemical processes. In this presentation, we will focus on the potential of ground penetrating radar (GPR) to investigate small-scale processes and to enhanced the reconstruction of the subsurface properties. GPR can be applied to a wide range of applications to solve geological, hydrogeophysical, permafrost and civil engineering questions, to name just a few examples. Especially, the GPR full-waveform inversion (FWI) demonstrated in the last decade the benefits of an improved high-resolution method to assess geological, hydrological, and biogeochemical subsurface properties and related processes. This presentation will emphasize the recent developments and applications that we accomplished in the last years using novel GPR algorithms ranging from large-scale high resolution aquifer characterization, investigation of flow and transport processes and agricultural management. These examples demonstrate the significant role that GPR and the FWI can have to enhance our near surface characterization to support management decisions.