Groundwater is the water present beneath Earth's surface in rock and soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock become completely saturated with water is called the water table. Groundwater is recharged from the surface; it may discharge from the surface naturally at springs and seeps, and can form oases or wetlands. Groundwater is also often withdrawn for agricultural, municipal, and industrial use by constructing and operating extraction wells. The study of the distribution and movement of groundwater is hydrogeology, also called groundwater hydrology.
Typically, groundwater is thought of as water flowing through shallow aquifers, but, in the technical sense, it can also contain soil moisture, permafrost (frozen soil), immobile water in very low permeability bedrock, and deep geothermal or oil formation water. Groundwater is hypothesized to provide lubrication that can possibly influence the movement of faults. It is likely that much of Earth's subsurface contains some water, which may be mixed with other fluids in some instances.
Groundwater is often cheaper, more convenient and less vulnerable to pollution than surface water. Therefore, it is commonly used for public water supplies. For example, groundwater provides the largest source of usable water storage in the United States, and California annually withdraws the largest amount of groundwater of all the states.Underground reservoirs contain far more water than the capacity of all surface reservoirs and lakes in the US, including the Great Lakes. Many municipal water supplies are derived solely from groundwater.
Use of groundwater has related environmental issues. For example, polluted groundwater is less visible and more difficult to clean up than pollution in rivers and lakes. Groundwater pollution most often results from improper disposal of wastes on land. Major sources include industrial and household chemicals and garbage landfills, excessive fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture, industrial waste lagoons, tailings and process wastewater from mines, industrial fracking, oil field brine pits, leaking underground oil storage tanks and pipelines, sewage sludge and septic systems. Additionally, groundwater is susceptible to saltwater intrusion in coastal areas and can cause land subsidence when extracted unsustainably, leading to sinking cities (like Bangkok)) and loss in elevation (such as the multiple meters lost in the Central Valley of California). These issues are made more complicated by sea level rise and other changes caused by climate changes which will change precipitation and water scarcity globally.
An aquifer is a layer of porous substrate that contains and transmits groundwater. When water can flow directly between the surface and the saturated zone of an aquifer, the aquifer is unconfined. The deeper parts of unconfined aquifers are usually more saturated since gravity causes water to flow downward.
The upper level of this saturated layer of an unconfined aquifer is called the water table or phreatic surface. Below the water table, where in general all pore spaces are saturated with water, is the phreatic zone.
Substrate with low porosity that permits limited transmission of groundwater is known as an aquitard. An aquiclude is a substrate with porosity that is so low it is virtually impermeable to groundwater.
A confined aquifer is an aquifer that is overlain by a relatively impermeable layer of rock or substrate such as an aquiclude or aquitard. If a confined aquifer follows a downward grade from its recharge zone, groundwater can become pressurized as it flows. This can create artesian wells that flow freely without the need of a pump and rise to a higher elevation than the static water table at the above, unconfined, aquifer.
Groundwater makes up about thirty percent of the world's fresh water supply, which is about 0.76% of the entire world's water, including oceans and permanent ice.About 99% of the world's liquid fresh water is ground water. Global groundwater storage is roughly equal to the total amount of freshwater stored in the snow and ice pack, including the north and south poles. This makes it an important resource that can act as a natural storage that can buffer against shortages of surface water, as in during times of drought.
Groundwater is naturally replenished by surface water from precipitation, streams, and rivers when this recharge reaches the water table.
Groundwater can be a long-term 'reservoir' of the natural water cycle (with residence times from days to millennia),as opposed to short-term water reservoirs like the atmosphere and fresh surface water (which have residence times from minutes to years). The figure shows how deep groundwater (which is quite distant from the surface recharge) can take a very long time to complete its natural cycle.
The Great Artesian Basin in central and eastern Australia is one of the largest confined aquifer systems in the world, extending for almost 2 million km2. By analysing the trace elements in water sourced from deep underground, hydrogeologists have been able to determine that water extracted from these aquifers can be more than 1 million years old.
By comparing the age of groundwater obtained from different parts of the Great Artesian Basin, hydrogeologists have found it increases in age across the basin. Where water recharges the aquifers along the Eastern Divide, ages are young. As groundwater flows westward across the continent, it increases in age, with the oldest groundwater occurring in the western parts. This means that in order to have travelled almost 1000 km from the source of recharge in 1 million years, the groundwater flowing through the Great Artesian Basin travels at an average rate of about 1 metre per year.
Recent research has demonstrated that evaporation of groundwater can play a significant role in the local water cycle, especially in arid regions.Scientists in Saudi Arabia have proposed plans to recapture and recycle this evaporative moisture for crop irrigation. In the opposite photo, a 50-centimeter-square reflective carpet, made of small adjacent plastic cones, was placed in a plant-free dry desert area for five months, without rain or irrigation. It managed to capture and condense enough ground vapor to bring to life naturally buried seeds underneath it, with a green area of about 10% of the carpet area. It is expected that, if seeds were put down before placing this carpet, a much wider area would become green.
The high specific heat capacity of water and the insulating effect of soil and rock can mitigate the effects of climate and maintain groundwater at a relatively steady temperature. In some places where groundwater temperatures are maintained by this effect at about 10 °C (50 °F), groundwater can be used for controlling the temperature inside structures at the surface. For example, during hot weather relatively cool groundwater can be pumped through radiators in a home and then returned to the ground in another well. During cold seasons, because it is relatively warm, the water can be used in the same way as a source of heat for heat pumps that is much more efficient than using air.
The volume of groundwater in an aquifer can be estimated by measuring water levels in local wells and by examining geologic records from well-drilling to determine the extent, depth and thickness of water-bearing sediments and rocks. Before an investment is made in production wells, test wells may be drilled to measure the depths at which water is encountered and collect samples of soils, rock and water for laboratory analyses. Pumping tests can be performed in test wells to determine flow characteristics of the aquifer.
The characteristics of aquifers vary with the geology and structure of the substrate and topography in which they occur. In general, the more productive aquifers occur in sedimentary geologic formations. By comparison, weathered and fractured crystalline rocks yield smaller quantities of groundwater in many environments. Unconsolidated to poorly cemented alluvial materials that have accumulated as valley-filling sediments in major river valleys and geologically subsiding structural basins are included among the most productive sources of groundwater.
Fluid flows can be altered in different lithological settings by brittle deformation of rocks in fault zones; the mechanisms by which this occurs are the subject of fault zone hydrogeology.
Most land areas on Earth have some form of aquifer underlying them, sometimes at significant depths. In some cases, these aquifers are rapidly being depleted by the human population.
Of all natural resources, groundwater is the most extracted resource in the world. As of 2010, the top five countries by volume of groundwater extraction were India, China, the US, Pakistan, and Iran. A majority of extracted groundwater, 70%, is used for agricultural purposes.Groundwater is the most accessed source of freshwater around the world, including as drinking water, irrigation, and manufacturing. Groundwater accounts for about half of the world's drinking water, 40% of its irrigation water, and a third of water for industrial purposes.
Fresh-water aquifers, especially those with limited recharge by snow or rain, also known as meteoric water, can be over-exploited and depending on the local hydrogeology, may draw in non-potable water or saltwater intrusion from hydraulically connected aquifers or surface water bodies. This can be a serious problem, especially in coastal areas and other areas where aquifer pumping is excessive. In some areas, the ground water can become contaminated by arsenic and other mineral poisons.
Aquifers are critically important in human habitation and agriculture. Deep aquifers in arid areas have long been water sources for irrigation (see Ogallala below). Many villages and even large cities draw their water supply from wells in aquifers.
Municipal, irrigation, and industrial water supplies are provided through large wells. Multiple wells for one water supply source are termed "wellfields", which may withdraw water from confined or unconfined aquifers. Using ground water from deep, confined aquifers provides more protection from surface water contamination. Some wells, termed "collector wells", are specifically designed to induce infiltration of surface (usually river) water.
Aquifers that provide sustainable fresh groundwater to urban areas and for agricultural irrigation are typically close to the ground surface (within a couple of hundred metres) and have some recharge by fresh water. This recharge is typically from rivers or meteoric water (precipitation) that percolates into the aquifer through overlying unsaturated materials.
Occasionally, sedimentary or "fossil" aquifers are used to provide irrigation and drinking water to urban areas. In Libya, for example, Muammar Gaddafi's Great Manmade River project has pumped large amounts of groundwater from aquifers beneath the Sahara to populous areas near the coast.Though this has saved Libya money over the alternative, desalination, the aquifers are likely to run dry in 60 to 100 years. Aquifer depletion has been cited as one of the causes of the food price rises of 2011.
Certain problems have beset the use of groundwater around the world. Just as river waters have been over-used and polluted in many parts of the world, so too have aquifers. The big difference is that aquifers are out of sight. The other major problem is that water management agencies, when calculating the "sustainable yield" of aquifer and river water, have often counted the same water twice, once in the aquifer, and once in its connected river. This problem, although understood for centuries, has persisted, partly through inertia within government agencies. In Australia, for example, prior to the statutory reforms initiated by the Council of Australian Governments water reform framework in the 1990s, many Australian states managed groundwater and surface water through separate government agencies, an approach beset by rivalry and poor communication.
In general, the time lags inherent in the dynamic response of groundwater to development have been ignored by water management agencies, decades after scientific understanding of the issue was consolidated. In brief, the effects of groundwater overdraft (although undeniably real) may take decades or centuries to manifest themselves. In a classic study in 1982, Bredehoeft and colleaguesmodeled a situation where groundwater extraction in an intermontane basin withdrew the entire annual recharge, leaving ‘nothing’ for the natural groundwater-dependent vegetation community. Even when the borefield was situated close to the vegetation, 30% of the original vegetation demand could still be met by the lag inherent in the system after 100 years. By year 500, this had reduced to 0%, signalling complete death of the groundwater-dependent vegetation. The science has been available to make these calculations for decades; however, in general water management agencies have ignored effects that will appear outside the rough timeframe of political elections (3 to 5 years). Marios Sophocleous argued strongly that management agencies must define and use appropriate timeframes in groundwater planning. This will mean calculating groundwater withdrawal permits based on predicted effects decades, sometimes centuries in the future.
As water moves through the landscape, it collects soluble salts, mainly sodium chloride. Where such water enters the atmosphere through evapotranspiration, these salts are left behind. In irrigation districts, poor drainage of soils and surface aquifers can result in water tables' coming to the surface in low-lying areas. Major land degradation problems of soil salinity and waterlogging result,combined with increasing levels of salt in surface waters. As a consequence, major damage has occurred to local economies and environments.
Four important effects are worthy of brief mention. First, flood mitigation schemes, intended to protect infrastructure built on floodplains, have had the unintended consequence of reducing aquifer recharge associated with natural flooding. Second, prolonged depletion of groundwater in extensive aquifers can result in land subsidence, with associated infrastructure damage – as well as, third, saline intrusion.Fourth, draining acid sulphate soils, often found in low-lying coastal plains, can result in acidification and pollution of formerly freshwater and estuarine streams.
Another cause for concern is that groundwater drawdown from over-allocated aquifers has the potential to cause severe damage to both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems – in some cases very conspicuously but in others quite imperceptibly because of the extended period over which the damage occurs.
Groundwater is a highly useful and often abundant resource. However, over-use, over-abstraction or overdraft, can cause major problems to human users and to the environment. The most evident problem (as far as human groundwater use is concerned) is a lowering of the water table beyond the reach of existing wells. As a consequence, wells must be drilled deeper to reach the groundwater; in some places (e.g., California, Texas, and India) the water table has dropped hundreds of feet because of extensive well pumping.The GRACE satellites have collected data that demonstrates 21 of Earth's 37 major aquifers are undergoing deplection. In the Punjab region of India, for example, groundwater levels have dropped 10 meters since 1979, and the rate of depletion is accelerating. A lowered water table may, in turn, cause other problems such as groundwater-related subsidence and saltwater intrusion.
Groundwater is also ecologically important. The importance of groundwater to ecosystems is often overlooked, even by freshwater biologists and ecologists. Groundwaters sustain rivers, wetlands, and lakes, as well as subterranean ecosystems within karst or alluvial aquifers.
Not all ecosystems need groundwater, of course. Some terrestrial ecosystems – for example, those of the open deserts and similar arid environments – exist on irregular rainfall and the moisture it delivers to the soil, supplemented by moisture in the air. While there are other terrestrial ecosystems in more hospitable environments where groundwater plays no central role, groundwater is in fact fundamental to many of the world's major ecosystems. Water flows between groundwaters and surface waters. Most rivers, lakes, and wetlands are fed by, and (at other places or times) feed groundwater, to varying degrees. Groundwater feeds soil moisture through percolation, and many terrestrial vegetation communities depend directly on either groundwater or the percolated soil moisture above the aquifer for at least part of each year. Hyporheic zones (the mixing zone of streamwater and groundwater) and riparian zones are examples of ecotones largely or totally dependent on groundwater.
Subsidence occurs when too much water is pumped out from underground, deflating the space below the above-surface, and thus causing the ground to collapse. The result can look like craters on plots of land. This occurs because, in its natural equilibrium state, the hydraulic pressure of groundwater in the pore spaces of the aquifer and the aquitard supports some of the weight of the overlying sediments. When groundwater is removed from aquifers by excessive pumping, pore pressures in the aquifer drop and compression of the aquifer may occur. This compression may be partially recoverable if pressures rebound, but much of it is not. When the aquifer gets compressed, it may cause land subsidence, a drop in the ground surface.[ citation needed ]
The city of New Orleans, Louisiana is actually below sea level today, and its subsidence is partly caused by removal of groundwater from the various aquifer/aquitard systems beneath it. cm (1'3") per year.In the first half of the 20th century, the San Joaquin Valley experienced significant subsidence, in some places up to 8.5 metres (28 feet) due to groundwater removal. Cities on river deltas, including Venice in Italy, and Bangkok in Thailand, have experienced surface subsidence; Mexico City, built on a former lake bed, has experienced rates of subsidence of up to 40
For coastal cities, subsidence can increase the risk of other environmental issues, such as sea level rise. million people exposed to coastal flooding by 2070 because of these combining factors.For example, Bangkok is expected to have 5.138
Seawater intrusion is the flow or presence of seawater into coastal aquifers; it is a case of saltwater intrusion. It is a natural phenomenon but can be caused or worsened by anthropogenic factors, such as climate change caused sea level rise.In the case of homogeneous aquifers, seawater intrusion forms a saline wedge below a transition zone to fresh groundwater, flowing seaward on the top. These changes can have other effects on the land above the groundwater: as an example a 2020 study published in Nature found that coastal groundwater in California would rise in many aquifers, increasing risks of flooding and runoff challenges.
Polluted groundwater is less visible, but more difficult to clean up, than pollution in rivers and lakes. Groundwater pollution most often results from improper disposal of wastes on land. Major sources include industrial and household chemicals and garbage landfills, industrial waste lagoons, tailings and process wastewater from mines, oil field brine pits, leaking underground oil storage tanks and pipelines, sewage sludge and septic systems. Polluted groundwater is mapped by sampling soils and groundwater near suspected or known sources of pollution, to determine the extent of the pollution, and to aid in the design of groundwater remediation systems. Preventing groundwater pollution near potential sources such as landfills requires lining the bottom of a landfill with watertight materials, collecting any leachate with drains, and keeping rainwater off any potential contaminants, along with regular monitoring of nearby groundwater to verify that contaminants have not leaked into the groundwater.
Groundwater pollution, from pollutants released to the ground that can work their way down into groundwater, can create a contaminant plume within an aquifer. Pollution can occur from landfills, naturally occurring arsenic, on-site sanitation systems or other point sources, such as petrol stations with leaking underground storage tanks, or leaking sewers.
Movement of water and dispersion within the aquifer spreads the pollutant over a wider area, its advancing boundary often called a plume edge, which can then intersect with groundwater wells or daylight into surface water such as seeps and springs, making the water supplies unsafe for humans and wildlife. Different mechanism have influence on the transport of pollutants, e.g. diffusion, adsorption, precipitation, decay, in the groundwater. The interaction of groundwater contamination with surface waters is analyzed by use of hydrology transport models.
The danger of pollution of municipal supplies is minimized by locating wells in areas of deep groundwater and impermeable soils, and careful testing and monitoring of the aquifer and nearby potential pollution sources.
Around one-third of the world's population drinks water from groundwater resources. Of this, about 10 percent, approximately 300 million people, obtains water from groundwater resources that are heavily polluted with arsenic or fluoride. These trace elements derive mainly from natural sources by leaching from rock and sediments.
In 2008, the Swiss Aquatic Research Institute, Eawag, presented a new method by which hazard maps could be produced for geogenic toxic substances in groundwater.This provides an efficient way of determining which wells should be tested.
In 2016, the research group made its knowledge freely available on the Groundwater Assessment Platform GAP. This offers specialists worldwide the possibility of uploading their own measurement data, visually displaying them and producing risk maps for areas of their choice. GAP also serves as a knowledge-sharing forum for enabling further development of methods for removing toxic substances from water.
In the United States, laws regarding ownership and use of groundwater are generally state laws. Regulation of groundwater to minimize pollution of groundwater is addressed in both state and federal law; in the latter case, through regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This section needs expansionwith: additional legal doctrines. You can help by adding to it. (December 2020)
In India, 65% of the irrigation is from groundwaterand about 90% of extracted groundwater is used for irrigation. The groundwater regulation is controlled and maintained by the central government and four organizations; 1) Central Water Commission, 2) Central Ground Water, 3) Central Ground Water Authority, 4) Central Pollution Control Board.
Laws, regulations and scheme regarding India's groundwater:
A significant portion of Canada’s population relies on the use of groundwater. In Canada, roughly 8.9 million people or 30% of Canada's population rely on groundwater for domestic use and approximately two thirds of these users live in rural areas.
A large federal government groundwater initiative is the development of the multi-barrier approach. The multi-barrier approach is a system of processes to prevent the deterioration of drinking water from the source. The multi-barrier consists of three key elements:
Groundwater is an important water resource for the supply of drinking water, especially in arid countries.
Groundwater may not be confined only to Earth. The formation of some of the landforms observed on Mars may have been influenced by groundwater. There is also evidence that liquid water may also exist in the subsurface of Jupiter's moon Europa.
An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated materials. Groundwater from aquifers can be extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydrogeology. Related terms include aquitard, which is a bed of low permeability along an aquifer, and aquiclude, which is a solid, impermeable area underlying or overlying an aquifer, the pressure of which could create a confined aquifer.
Environmental geology, like hydrogeology, is an applied science concerned with the practical application of the principles of geology in the solving of environmental problems created by man. It is a multidisciplinary field that is closely related to engineering geology and, to a lesser extent, to environmental geography. Each of these fields involves the study of the interaction of humans with the geologic environment, including the biosphere, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and to some extent the atmosphere. In other words, environmental geology is the application of geological information to solve conflicts, minimizing possible adverse environmental degradation or maximizing possible advantageous conditions resulting from the use of natural and modified environment. With an increasing world population and industrialization, the natural environment and resources are under high strain which puts them at the forefront of world issues. Environmental geology is on the rise with these issues as solutions are found by utilizing it.
The Ogallala Aquifer is a shallow water table aquifer surrounded by sand, silt, clay, and gravel located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. One of the world's largest aquifers, it underlies an area of approximately 174,000 sq mi (450,000 km2) in portions of eight states. It was named in 1898 by geologist N. H. Darton from its type locality near the town of Ogallala, Nebraska. The aquifer is part of the High Plains Aquifer System, and resides in the Ogallala Formation, which is the principal geologic unit underlying 80% of the High Plains.
Hydrogeology is the area of geology that deals with the distribution and movement of groundwater in the soil and rocks of the Earth's crust. The terms groundwater hydrology, geohydrology, and hydrogeology are often used interchangeably.
Saltwater intrusion is the movement of saline water into freshwater aquifers, which can lead to groundwater quality degradation, including drinking water sources, and other consequences. Saltwater intrusion can naturally occur in coastal aquifers, owing to the hydraulic connection between groundwater and seawater. Because saline water has a higher mineral content than freshwater, it is denser and has a higher water pressure. As a result, saltwater can push inland beneath the freshwater.
The Edwards Aquifer is one of the most prolific artesian aquifers in the world. Located on the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau in the U.S. state of Texas, it is the source of drinking water for two million people, and is the primary water supply for agriculture and industry in the aquifer's region. Additionally, the Edwards Aquifer feeds the Comal and San Marcos springs, provides springflow for recreational and downstream uses in the Nueces, San Antonio, Guadalupe, and San Marcos river basins, and is home to several unique and endangered species.
Groundwater recharge or deep drainage or deep percolation is a hydrologic process, where water moves downward from surface water to groundwater. Recharge is the primary method through which water enters an aquifer. This process usually occurs in the vadose zone below plant roots and, is often expressed as a flux to the water table surface. Groundwater recharge also encompasses water moving away from the water table farther into the saturated zone. Recharge occurs both naturally and through anthropogenic processes, where rainwater and or reclaimed water is routed to the subsurface.
Overdrafting is the process of extracting groundwater beyond the equilibrium yield of the aquifer.
Groundwater-related subsidence is the subsidence of land resulting from groundwater extraction. It is a growing problem in the developing world as cities increase in population and water use, without adequate pumping regulation and enforcement. One estimate has 80% of serious U.S. land subsidence problems associated with the excessive extraction of groundwater, making it a growing problem throughout the world.
A well is an excavation or structure created in the ground by digging, driving, or drilling to access liquid resources, usually water. The oldest and most common kind of well is a water well, to access groundwater in underground aquifers. The well water is drawn up by a pump, or using containers, such as buckets, that are raised mechanically or by hand. Water can also be injected back into the aquifer through the well. Wells were first constructed at least eight thousand years ago and historically vary in construction from a simple scoop in the sediment of a dry watercourse to the qanats of Iran, and the stepwells and sakiehs of India. Placing a lining in the well shaft helps create stability, and linings of wood or wickerwork date back at least as far as the Iron Age.
Water resources are natural resources of water that are potentially useful. 97% of the water on the Earth is salt water and only three percent is fresh water; slightly over two thirds of this is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining unfrozen freshwater is found mainly as groundwater, with only a small fraction present above ground or in the air. Natural sources of fresh water include surface water, under river flow, groundwater and frozen water. Artificial sources of fresh water can include treated wastewater and desalinated seawater.
The environmental impacts of irrigation relate to the changes in quantity and quality of soil and water as a result of irrigation and the effects on natural and social conditions in river basins and downstream of an irrigation scheme. The impacts stem from the altered hydrological conditions caused by the installation and operation of the irrigation scheme.
Guatemala faces substantial resource and institutional challenges in successfully managing its national water resources. Deforestation is increasing as the global demand for timber exerts pressure on the forests of Guatemala. Soil erosion, runoff, and sedimentation of surface water is a result of deforestation from development of urban centers, agriculture needs, and conflicting land and water use planning. Sectors within industry are also growing and the prevalence of untreated effluents entering waterways and aquifers has grown alongside.
Water storage is a broad term referring to storage of both potable water for consumption, and non potable water for use in agriculture. In both developing countries and some developed countries found in tropical climates, there is a need to store potable drinking water during the dry season. In agriculture water storage, water is stored for later use in natural water sources, such as groundwater aquifers, soil water, natural wetlands, and small artificial ponds, tanks and reservoirs behind major dams. Storing water invites a host of potential issues regardless of that waters intended purpose, including contamination through organic and inorganic means.
Groundwater banking is a water management mechanism designed to increase water supply reliability. Groundwater can be created by using dewatered aquifer space to store water during the years when there is abundant rainfall. It can then be pumped and used during years that do not have a surplus of water. People can manage the use of groundwater to benefit society through the purchasing and selling of these groundwater rights. The surface water should be used first, and then the groundwater will be used when there is not enough surface water to meet demands. The groundwater will reduce the risk of relying on surface water and will maximize expected income. There are regulatory storage-type aquifer recovery and storage systems which when water is injected into it gives the right to withdraw the water later on. Groundwater banking has been implemented into semi-arid and arid southwestern United States because this is where there is the most need for extra water. The overall goal is to transfer water from low-value to high-value uses by bringing buyers and sellers together.
Prabhat C Chandra is an Indian geophysicist. Since 1973, he has done extensive work in the field of hydrogeophysics, encompassing groundwater exploration, development and management with a specialization in groundwater geophysics using various geophysical methods.
Groundwater pollution occurs when pollutants are released to the ground and make their way down into groundwater. This type of water pollution can also occur naturally due to the presence of a minor and unwanted constituent, contaminant or impurity in the groundwater, in which case it is more likely referred to as contamination rather than pollution.
An aquifer, according to the Oxford dictionary is a body of permeable rock that can contain or transmit groundwater. Aquifer Susceptibility is the inherent ability of a formation to accept and transmit liquids. Certain areas of the United States are becoming more reliant on groundwater to meet the needs of the population.
California's Central Valley subsides when groundwater is pumped faster than underground aquifers can be recharged. The Central Valley has been sinking at differing rates since the 1920s and is estimated to have sunk up to 28 feet. During drought years, the valley is prone to accelerated subsidence. California periodically experiences droughts of varying lengths and severity.
Groundwater pollution, also referred to as groundwater contamination, is not as easily classified as surface water pollution. Groundwater aquifers are susceptible to contamination from sources that may not directly affect surface water bodies.
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