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A vast amount that water exist in the ground below your feet, and people almost everywhere the civilization make good use of it. Yet it is only uncovered in usable quantities in specific places underground — aquifers. Check out on to understand the principles of aquifers and also how water exists in the ground.


A hole dug at the coast illustrates the principle of just how the ground, if it is permeable enough, have the right to hold water. ​​​​​​​The upper surface of this zone the saturation is referred to as the water table.

Credit: Howard Perlman,

Groundwater is one of our most an important resources—even despite you probably never watch it or also realize that is there.

Have you ever before dug a feet at the beach and also watched together it partly filled through water native the basic sand? This is a an excellent way to show the concept of how the ground, if that is permeable enough, have the right to hold water yet still continue to be solid. The upper surface ar of this water-filled area, or "zone that saturation", is called the water table. The saturated area beneath the water table is referred to as an aquifer, and aquifers are vast storehouses the water. In our sand hole example, girlfriend have basically dug a "well" that exposes the water table, with an aquifer beneath it. At the beach, the level the the water table is always at the same level as the ocean, i m sorry is just listed below the surface of the beach.

As girlfriend may have read, many of the void spaces in the rocks below the water table are filled with water. These rocks have different porosity and permeability characteristics, which method that water does not move around the same means in all rocks listed below ground.

When a water-bearing rock easily transmits water come wells and also springs, it is called an aquifer. Wells have the right to be drilled into the aquifers and water can be pumped out. Precipitation eventually adds water (recharge) into the porous absent of the aquifer. The rate of recharge is no the same for all aquifers, though, and that must be considered when pump water native a well. Pump too lot water too quick draws under the water in the aquifer and eventually causes a well to productivity less and also less water and even run dry. In fact, pumping her well as well much can even cause your neighbor"s fine to operation dry if friend both room pumping indigenous the same aquifer.

Visualizing groundwater

In the diagram below, you can see how the ground listed below the water table (the blue area) is saturated with water. The "unsaturated zone" over the water table (the gray area) still includes water (after all, plants" root live in this area), yet it is not totally saturated with water. You have the right to see this in the two illustrations at the bottom that the diagram, which display a close-up of exactly how water is save on computer in between underground absent particles.



Sometimes the porous absent layers come to be tilted in the earth. There could be a confining layer of less porous absent both above and below the porous layer. This is an instance of a border aquifer. In this case, the rocks surrounding the aquifer boundaries the push in the porous rock and its water. If a fine is drilled into this "pressurized" aquifer, the interior pressure could (depending top top the capacity of the absent to move water) be sufficient to push the water increase the well and also up to the surface ar without the help of a pump, sometimes fully out the the well. This type of fine is called artesian. The press of water indigenous an artesian well deserve to be rather dramatic.

A connection does not necessarily exist between the water-bearing capacity of rocks and also the depth in ~ which they are found. A really dense granite that will yield small or no water come a well may be exposed in ~ the land surface. Whereas a porous sandstone might lie hundreds or hundreds of feet listed below the soil surface and also may yield thousands of gallons per minute that water. Rocks the yield freshwater have actually been uncovered at depths of more than 6,000 feet, and salty water has come from oil wells at depth of much more than 30,000 feet. ~ above the average, however, the porosity and also permeability the rocks decrease as their depth listed below land surface increases; the pores and cracks in rocks at great depths room closed or greatly decreased in size because of the weight of overlying rocks.



Pumping can influence the level of the water table

Groundwater occurs in the saturation soil and rock below the water table. If the aquifer is shallow enough and permeable sufficient to enable water to move through it at a rapid-enough rate, then civilization can drill wells into it and also withdraw water. The level that the water table deserve to naturally readjust over time early out to alters in weather cycles and also precipitation patterns, streamflow and geologic changes, and also even human-induced changes, such as the increase in impervious surfaces top top the landscape.

The pump of wells have the right to have a great deal the influence on water levels below ground, specifically in the vicinity that the well, as this diagram shows. If water is withdrawn indigenous the ground in ~ a faster rate the it is replenished, one of two people by infiltration indigenous the surface or from streams, then the water table can come to be lower, bring about a "cone of depression" about the well. Depending upon geologic and also hydrologic conditions of the aquifer, the affect on the level the the water table deserve to be short-lived or last for decades, and also it can loss a tiny amount or numerous hundreds of feet. Too much pumping have the right to lower the water table so lot that the wells no much longer supply water—they can "go dry."


Water activity in aquifers


Water motion in aquifers is very dependent the the permeability that the aquifer material. Permeable material contains interconnected crack or spaces that are both plenty of enough and large enough to enable water to relocate freely. In some permeable materials groundwater may move several meters in a day; in various other places, the moves only a few centimeters in a century. Groundwater moves an extremely slowly through fairly impermeable materials such together clay and shale. (Source: setting Canada)

After beginning an aquifer, water moves gradually toward reduced lying places and also eventually is discharged indigenous the aquifer native springs, seeps right into streams, or is withdrawn from the ground by wells. Groundwater in aquifers between layers the poorly permeable rock, such as clay or shale, might be border under pressure. If together a limit aquifer is tapped by a well, water will certainly rise over the height of the aquifer and may also flow indigenous the fine onto the land surface. Water confined in this method is said to be under artesian pressure, and the aquifer is called an artesian aquifer.

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Visualizing artesian pressure

Here"s a tiny experiment to present you exactly how artesian pressure works. Fill a plastic sandwich baggie through water, put a straw in with the opening, tape the opening about the straw closed, suggest the straw increase (but don"t point the straw in the direction of your teacher or parents!) and then squeeze the baggie. Artesian water is moved out v the straw.