Groundwater is the water present beneath Earth's surface in 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 and eventually flows to the surface naturally; natural discharge often occurs 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 Groundwater is also often withdrawn for agricultural, municipal, and industrial use by constructing and operating extraction wells.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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Groundwater makes up about twenty percent of the world's fresh water supply, which is about 0.61% of the entire world's water, including oceans and permanent ice. 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 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.
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 colleagues modeled 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. 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. 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. 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 cm (1'3") per year.
In general, in very humid or undeveloped regions, the shape of the water table mimics the slope of the surface. The recharge zone of an aquifer near the seacoast is likely to be inland, often at considerable distance. In these coastal areas, a lowered water table may induce sea water to reverse the flow toward the land. Sea water moving inland is called a saltwater intrusion. In alternative fashion, salt from mineral beds may leach into the groundwater of its own accord.
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; however, regulation of groundwater to minimize pollution of groundwater is by both states and the federal-level Environmental Protection Agency. Ownership and use rights to groundwater typically follow one of three main systems:
Other rules in the United States include:
In India, 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 and Regulations 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:
An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, or silt). Groundwater 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 (or aquifuge), which is a solid, impermeable area underlying or overlying an aquifer. If the impermeable area overlies the aquifer, pressure could cause it to become a confined aquifer.Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As and atomic number 33. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal. Arsenic is a metalloid. It has various allotropes, but only the gray form, which has a metallic appearance, is important to industry.
The primary use of arsenic is in alloys of lead (for example, in car batteries and ammunition). Arsenic is a common n-type dopant in semiconductor electronic devices, and the optoelectronic compound gallium arsenide is the second most commonly used semiconductor after doped silicon. Arsenic and its compounds, especially the trioxide, are used in the production of pesticides, treated wood products, herbicides, and insecticides. These applications are declining due to the toxicity of arsenic and its compounds.A few species of bacteria are able to use arsenic compounds as respiratory metabolites. Trace quantities of arsenic are an essential dietary element in rats, hamsters, goats, chickens, and presumably other species. A role in human metabolism is not known. However, arsenic poisoning occurs in multicellular life if quantities are larger than needed. Arsenic contamination of groundwater is a problem that affects millions of people across the world.
The United States' Environmental Protection Agency states that all forms of arsenic are a serious risk to human health. The United States' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ranked arsenic as number 1 in its 2001 Priority List of Hazardous Substances at Superfund sites. Arsenic is classified as a Group-A carcinogen.Arsenic contamination of groundwater
Arsenic contamination of groundwater is a form of groundwater pollution which is often due to naturally occurring high concentrations of arsenic in deeper levels of groundwater. It is a high-profile problem due to the use of deep tubewells for water supply in the Ganges Delta, causing serious arsenic poisoning to large numbers of people. A 2007 study found that over 137 million people in more than 70 countries are probably affected by arsenic poisoning of drinking water. The problem became serious health concern after mass poisoning of water in Bangladesh. Arsenic contamination of ground water is found in many countries throughout the world, including the US.Approximately 20 major incidents of groundwater floarsenic contamination have been reported. Of these, four major incidents occurred in Asia, in Thailand, Taiwan, and Mainland China. Locations of potentially hazardous wells have been mapped in China.Fresh water
Fresh water (or freshwater) is any naturally occurring water except seawater and brackish water. Fresh water includes water in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, icebergs, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, and even underground water called groundwater. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. Though the term specifically excludes seawater and brackish water, it does include mineral-rich waters such as chalybeate springs.
Fresh water is not the same as potable water (or drinking water). Much of the earth's fresh water (on the surface and groundwater) is unsuitable for drinking without some treatment. Fresh water can easily become polluted by human activities or due to naturally occurring processes, such as erosion.
Water is critical to the survival of all living organisms. Some organisms can thrive on salt water, but the great majority of higher plants and most mammals need fresh water to live.Groundwater on Mars
During past ages, there was rain and/or snow on Mars; especially in the Noachian and early Hesperian epochs. Some moisture entered the ground and formed aquifers. That is, the water went into the ground, seeped down until it reached a layer that would not allow it to penetrate (such a layer is called impermeable), and then water piled up forming a layer that was saturated with water.
In an aquifer, water occupies open space (pore space) that lies between rock particles. This layer would spread out, eventually coming to be under most of the Martian surface. The top of this layer is called the water table. Calculations show that the water table on Mars was for a time 600 meters below the surface. Researchers have found that Mars had a planet-wide groundwater system and several prominent features on the planet have been produced by the action of groundwater. When water rose to the surface or near the surface, various minerals were deposited and sediments became cemented together. Some of the minerals were sulfates that were probably produced when water dissolved sulfur from underground rocks, and then became oxidized when it came into contact with the air. While traveling through the aquifer, the water passed through the igneous rock basalt, which would have contained sulfur.
Researchers have concluded that Gale Crater has experienced many episodes of groundwater with changes in the groundwater chemistry. These chemical changes would support life.Groundwater pollution
Groundwater pollution (also called groundwater contamination) 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.
The pollutant often creates a contaminant plume within an aquifer. Movement of water and dispersion within the aquifer spreads the pollutant over a wider area. Its advancing boundary, often called a plume edge, can intersect with groundwater wells or daylight into surface water such as seeps and springs, making the water supplies unsafe for humans and wildlife. The movement of the plume, called a plume front, may be analyzed through a hydrological transport model or groundwater model. Analysis of groundwater pollution may focus on soil characteristics and site geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, and the nature of the contaminants.
Pollution can occur from on-site sanitation systems, landfills, effluent from wastewater treatment plants, leaking sewers, petrol filling stations or from over application of fertilizers in agriculture. Pollution (or contamination) can also occur from naturally occurring contaminants, such as arsenic or fluoride. Using polluted groundwater causes hazards to public health through poisoning or the spread of disease.
Different mechanisms 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.Groundwater recharge
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 (through the water cycle) and through anthropogenic processes (i.e., "artificial groundwater recharge"), where rainwater and or reclaimed water is routed to the subsurface.Groundwater remediation
Groundwater remediation is the process that is used to treat polluted groundwater by removing the pollutants or converting them into harmless products. Groundwater is water present below the ground surface that saturates the pore space in the subsurface. Globally, between 25 per cent and 40 per cent of the world's drinking water is drawn from boreholes and dug wells. Groundwater is also used by farmers to irrigate crops and by industries to produce everyday goods. Most groundwater is clean, but groundwater can become polluted, or contaminated as a result of human activities or as a result of natural conditions.
The many and diverse activities of humans produce innumerable waste materials and by-products. Historically, the disposal of such waste have not been subject to many regulatory controls. Consequently, waste materials have often been disposed of or stored on land surfaces where they percolate into the underlying groundwater. As a result, the contaminated groundwater is unsuitable for use.
Current practices can still impact groundwater, such as the over application of fertilizer or pesticides, spills from industrial operations, infiltration from urban runoff, and leaking from landfills. Using contaminated groundwater causes hazards to public health through poisoning or the spread of disease, and the practice of groundwater remediation has been developed to address these issues. Contaminants found in groundwater cover a broad range of physical, inorganic chemical, organic chemical, bacteriological, and radioactive parameters. Pollutants and contaminants can be removed from groundwater by applying various techniques, thereby bringing the water to a standard that is commensurate with various intended uses.Hydrogeology
Hydrogeology (hydro- meaning water, and -geology meaning the study of the Earth) is the area of geology that deals with the distribution and movement of groundwater in the soil and rocks of the Earth's crust (commonly in aquifers). The terms groundwater hydrology, geohydrology, and hydrogeology are often used interchangeably.
Groundwater engineering, another name for hydrogeology, is a branch of engineering which is concerned with groundwater movement and design of wells, pumps, and drains. The main concerns in groundwater engineering include groundwater contamination, conservation of supplies, and water quality.Wells are constructed for use in developing nations, as well as for use in developed nations in places which are not connected to a city water system. Wells must be designed and maintained to uphold the integrity of the aquifer, and to prevent contaminants from reaching the groundwater. Controversy arises in the use of groundwater when its usage impacts surface water systems, or when human activity threatens the integrity of the local aquifer system.Overdrafting
Overdrafting is the process of extracting groundwater beyond the equilibrium yield of the aquifer.
There are two sets of yields, safe yield and sustainable yield. Safe yield is the amount of water that can be taken out of the ground without there being any undesirable results. Sustainable yield is extraction that takes into account both recharge rate and surface water impacts.
There are two types of aquifers: confined and unconfined. In confined aquifers, there is an overbearing layer called aquitard, which contains impermeable materials through which groundwater cannot be extracted. In unconfined aquifers, there is no aquitard, and groundwater can be freely extracted from the surface. Extracting groundwater from unconfined aquifers is like borrowing the water, it has to be recharged at a proper amount. If recharge is not done in proper amounts there can be many impacts. Recharge may happen through artificial recharge and natural recharge.Natural process of recharge is done through percolation of surface water. Artificial process of recharging the aquifer is through means of pumping reclaimed water from wastewater management projects directly into the aquifer. An example is the Orange County Water District in the State of California. This organization take waste water, treats it to a proper level, and then systematically pumps it back into the aquifers for artificial recharge.
When groundwater is extracted the water is primarily pulled from the aquifer which creates a cone depression around the well. When drafting of water continues the cone of depression increases in width. The increase in width leads to the negative impacts caused by overdrafting, such as drop of the water table, land subsidence, and loss of surface water reaching the streams. In extreme cases the supply of water to naturally recharge the aquifers is pulled directly from streams and rivers, leading to depletion of water levels in streams and rivers. The depletion of water in rivers and streams has an effect on wildlife, as well as humans who might be using the water for other purposes.Since every groundwater basin recharges at a different rate depending upon precipitation, vegetative cover and soil conservation practises, the quantity of groundwater that can be safely pumped varies greatly among regions of the world and even within provinces. Some aquifers require a very long time to recharge and thus the process of overdrafting can have consequences of effectively drying up certain sub-surface water supplies. Subsidence occurs when excessive groundwater is extracted from rocks that support more weight when saturated. This can lead to a capacity reduction in the aquifer.Groundwater is the fresh water that can be found underground; it is also one of the largest sources. Groundwater depletion can be comparable to ¨money in a bank¨, The primary cause of groundwater depletion is pumping or the excessive pulling up of groundwater from underground aquifers.Reclaimed water
Reclaimed or recycled water (also called wastewater reuse or water reclamation) is the process of converting wastewater into water that can be reused for other purposes. Reuse may include irrigation of gardens and agricultural fields or replenishing surface water and groundwater (i.e., groundwater recharge). Reused water may also be directed toward fulfilling certain needs in residences (e.g. toilet flushing), businesses, and industry, and could even be treated to reach drinking water standards. This last option is called either "direct potable reuse" or "indirect potable" reuse, depending on the approach used. Colloquially, the term "toilet to tap" also refers to potable reuse.Reclaiming water for reuse applications instead of using freshwater supplies can be a water-saving measure. When used water is eventually discharged back into natural water sources, it can still have benefits to ecosystems, improving streamflow, nourishing plant life and recharging aquifers, as part of the natural water cycle.Wastewater reuse is a long-established practice used for irrigation, especially in arid countries. Reusing wastewater as part of sustainable water management allows water to remain as an alternative water source for human activities. This can reduce scarcity and alleviate pressures on groundwater and other natural water bodies.Resource depletion
Resource depletion is the consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished. Natural resources are commonly divided between renewable resources and non-renewable resources (see also mineral resource classification). Use of either of these forms of resources beyond their rate of replacement is considered to be resource depletion. The value of a resource is a direct result of its availability in nature and the cost of extracting the resource, the more a resource is depleted the more the value of the resource increases. There are several types of resource depletion the most known being; Aquifer depletion, deforestation, mining for fossil fuels and minerals, pollution or contamination of resources, slash-and-burn agricultural practices, Soil erosion, and overconsumption, excessive or unnecessary use of resources.
Resource depletion is most commonly used in reference to farming, fishing, mining, water usage, and consumption of fossil fuels. Depletion of wildlife populations is called defaunation.Surface water
Surface water is water on the surface of continents such as in a river, lake, or wetland. It can be contrasted with groundwater and atmospheric water.
Non-saline surface water uses is replenished by precipitation and by recruitment from ground-water. It is lost through evaporation, seepage into the ground where it becomes ground-water, used by plants for transpiration, extracted by mankind for agriculture, living, industry etc. or discharged to the sea where it becomes saline.Valley network
Valley networks are branching networks of valleys on Mars that superficially resemble terrestrial river drainage basins. They are found mainly incised into the terrain of the martian southern highlands, and are typically - though not always - of Noachian age (approximately four billion years old). The individual valleys are typically less than 5 kilometers wide, though they may extend for up to hundreds or even thousands of kilometers across the martian surface.
The form, distribution, and implied evolution of the valley networks are of great importance for what they may tell us about the history of liquid water on the martian surface, and hence Mars' climate history. Some authors have argued that the properties of the networks demand that a hydrological cycle must have been active on ancient Mars, though this remains contentious. Objections chiefly arise from repeated results from models of martian paleoclimate suggesting high enough temperatures and pressures to sustain liquid water on the surface have not ever been possible on Mars.The advent of very high resolution images of the surface from the HiRISE, THEMIS and Context (CTX) satellite cameras as well as the Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter (MOLA) digital terrain models have drastically improved our understanding of the networks in the last decade.Water cycle
The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle or the hydrological cycle, describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. The mass of water on Earth remains fairly constant over time but the partitioning of the water into the major reservoirs of ice, fresh water, saline water and atmospheric water is variable depending on a wide range of climatic variables. The water moves from one reservoir to another, such as from river to ocean, or from the ocean to the atmosphere, by the physical processes of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface runoff, and subsurface flow. In doing so, the water goes through different forms: liquid, solid (ice) and vapor.
The water cycle involves the exchange of energy, which leads to temperature changes. When water evaporates, it takes up energy from its surroundings and cools the environment. When it condenses, it releases energy and warms the environment. These heat exchanges influence climate.
The evaporative phase of the cycle purifies water which then replenishes the land with freshwater. The flow of liquid water and ice transports minerals across the globe. It is also involved in reshaping the geological features of the Earth, through processes including erosion and sedimentation. The water cycle is also essential for the maintenance of most life and ecosystems on the planet.Water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies, usually as a result of human activities. Water bodies include for example lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater. Water pollution results when contaminants are introduced into the natural environment. For example, releasing inadequately treated wastewater into natural water bodies can lead to degradation of aquatic ecosystems. In turn, this can lead to public health problems for people living downstream. They may use the same polluted river water for drinking or bathing or irrigation. Water pollution is the leading worldwide cause of death and disease, e.g. due to water-borne diseases.Water pollution can be grouped into surface water pollution. Marine pollution and nutrient pollution are subsets of water pollution. Sources of water pollution are either point sources and non-point sources. Point sources have one identifiable cause of the pollution, such as a storm drain, wastewater treatment plant or stream. Non-point sources are more diffuse, such as agricultural runoff. Pollution is the result of the cumulative effect over time. All plants and organisms living in or being exposed to polluted water bodies can be impacted. The effects can damage individual species and impact the natural biological communities they are part of.
The causes of water pollution include a wide range of chemicals and pathogens as well as physical parameters. Contaminants may include organic and inorganic substances. Elevated temperatures can also lead to polluted water. A common cause of thermal pollution is the use of water as a coolant by power plants and industrial manufacturers. Elevated water temperatures decrease oxygen levels, which can kill fish and alter food chain composition, reduce species biodiversity, and foster invasion by new thermophilic species.Water pollution is measured by analysing water samples. Physical, chemical and biological tests can be done. Control of water pollution requires appropriate infrastructure and management plans. The infrastructure may include wastewater treatment plants. Sewage treatment plants and industrial wastewater treatment plants are usually required to protect water bodies from untreated wastewater. Agricultural wastewater treatment for farms, and erosion control from construction sites can also help prevent water pollution. Nature-based solutions are another approach to prevent water pollution. Effective control of urban runoff includes reducing speed and quantity of flow. In the United States, best management practices for water pollution include approaches to reduce the quantity of water and improve water quality.Water resources
Water resources are natural resources of water that are potentially useful. Uses of water include agricultural, industrial, household, recreational and environmental activities. All living things require water to grow and reproduce.
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.Fresh water is a renewable resource, yet the world's supply of groundwater is steadily decreasing, with depletion occurring most prominently in Asia, South America and North America, although it is still unclear how much natural renewal balances this usage, and whether ecosystems are threatened. The framework for allocating water resources to water users (where such a framework exists) is known as water rights.Water table
The water table is the upper surface of the zone of saturation. The zone of saturation is where the pores and fractures of the ground are saturated with water.The water table is the surface where the water pressure head is equal to the atmospheric pressure (where gauge pressure = 0). It may be visualized as the "surface" of the subsurface materials that are saturated with groundwater in a given vicinity.The groundwater may be from precipitation or from groundwater flowing into the aquifer. In areas with sufficient precipitation, water infiltrates through pore spaces in the soil, passing through the unsaturated zone. At increasing depths, water fills in more of the pore spaces in the soils, until a zone of saturation is reached. Below the water table, in the phreatic zone (zone of saturation), layers of permeable rock that yield groundwater are called aquifers. In less permeable soils, such as tight bedrock formations and historic lakebed deposits, the water table may be more difficult to define.
The water table should not be confused with the water level in a deeper well. If a deeper aquifer has a lower permeable unit that confines the upward flow, then the water level in this aquifer may rise to a level that is greater or less than the elevation of the actual water table. The elevation of the water in this deeper well is dependent upon the pressure in the deeper aquifer and is referred to as the potentiometric surface, not the water table.Well
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 by a pump, or using containers, such as buckets, that are raised mechanically or by hand. 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.
Wells have traditionally been sunk by hand digging, as is the case in rural areas of the developing world. These wells are inexpensive and low-tech as they use mostly manual labour, and the structure can be lined with brick or stone as the excavation proceeds. A more modern method called caissoning uses pre-cast reinforced concrete well rings that are lowered into the hole. Driven wells can be created in unconsolidated material with a well hole structure, which consists of a hardened drive point and a screen of perforated pipe, after which a pump is installed to collect the water. Deeper wells can be excavated by hand drilling methods or machine drilling, using a bit in a borehole. Drilled wells are usually cased with a factory-made pipe composed of steel or plastic. Drilled wells can access water at much greater depths than dug wells.
Two broad classes of well are shallow or unconfined wells completed within the uppermost saturated aquifer at that location, and deep or confined wells, sunk through an impermeable stratum into an aquifer beneath. A collector well can be constructed adjacent to a freshwater lake or stream with water percolating through the intervening material. The site of a well can be selected by a hydrogeologist, or groundwater surveyor. Water may be pumped or hand drawn. Impurities from the surface can easily reach shallow sources and contamination of the supply by pathogens or chemical contaminants needs to be avoided. Well water typically contains more minerals in solution than surface water and may require treatment before being potable. Soil salination can occur as the water table falls and the surrounding soil begins to dry out. Another environmental problem is the potential for methane to seep into the water.