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Groundwater Occurrence and Types of Groundwater


Water is an essential requirements for all forms of the life and is considered as integral part of the living organisms life. GOD has gifted our universe with bulk amount of this valuable substance in different forms such as

  1. Rivers
  2. Lakes
  3. Natural springs
  4. Rain
  5. Snow
  6. Glaciers
  7. Aquifers etc

During the early era apart from drinking purpose water was usually used for general usage such as agriculture, washing clothes, pots etc but With the passage of time the use of water get increased and human being started using it in different fields such as:

  1. Industries
  2. Preparation of food stuff
  3. Medicines
  4. Steam engines
  5. Vehicles
  6. Paper industries and so on

About 70% portion of our planet earth is consists of water while the rest 30% is consists of dry land. Apart from such a big amount of water there is also massive amount of underground water reservoirs but the main difficulty in using of this water is the difficulty to access it. Due to vast advancement of science and technology the demand for water is also increased to very high level then before it was and causing the demand for underground water usage.

The ground water reservoirs are much more pure and safe the usual water resources available at the earth's surface. Ground water constitute an integral part of the human's life and now time demands to bring it to use so that we can fulfill our fast growing demand of water. Following are the different types of ground water reservoirs and the their details.

Subsurface Water Occurrence

Underground rivers occur only rarely in cavernous limestone. Most groundwater occurs in small pore spaces within rock and alluvium(unconsolidated sediment)

  1. Groundwater accumulates over impervious material
  2. Water flow through porous medium is slow (range from few centimeters to meters per day)

Porosity of Geological Material

  1. Porosity is a parameter which describes the amount of open space in geologic material
  2. Porosity can be stated as a fractional value (0.30) or percentage (30%) of open space (i.e. 30% of volume in the material is open space)
  3. Open pore spaces occur between sediment grains
  4. Open pore spaces occur in cracks or fractures in rocks
  5. Open pore spaces occur in cavernous openings formed by dissolution of rock (limestone)
  6. Porosity values range from 0 to 50% typically
  7. Open pores can be filled with water or air or a mixture of both

Permeability of Geological Material

  1. Rocks may have a high porosity but if the pore spaces are not connected, water cannot flow through rock
  2. Permeability is a parameter which describes the ability of geologic material to transmit water
  3. Geologic material which can transmit large quantities of water are highly permeable and called aquifers

Examples of geologic material which are typically aquifers are

  1. Sand and gravel alluvium
  2. Sandstone
  3. Cavernous and/or fractured limestone

Geologic material which cannot transmit significant quantities of water are impermeable and called aquitards.

Examples of geologic material which are typically aquitards are:

  • Clay and silt alluvium
  • Shale and siltstone

Water in the Ground

Unsaturated Zone

  • region of subsurface from ground surface to the water table
  • Pores are partially filled with water
  • Unfilled pore space contains air

Saturated Zone

  • Region of subsurface in which pore spaces are saturated (completely filled) with water

Water Table

  • Interface between unsaturated and saturated zone in unconfined aquifers

Capillary Fringe

  • Zone above the water table where capillary forces pull water upward into pore spaces
  • Same effect seen with water in straws


  • Water accumulates over an impermeable or impervious surface
  • Water table can freely rise to land surface


  1. Aquifer is sandwiched between 2 layers of impermeable or impervious material
  2. Water flows into aquifer from an area at surface where upper impermeable layer (confining layer) is absent
  3. Groundwater in confined aquifers is under pressure
  4. Wells can be drilled through the upper confining layer
  5. Pressurized water will rise within the well
  6. Water levels are called piezometric water level
  7. Wells are called artesian wells
  8. Where water levels rise above the ground surface, water freely flows out of the well (flowing artesian well)


Unsaturated zone

  • Water moves primarily downward due to gravity
  • Water infiltrates from surface and moves downward to water table or ponds on impermeable surface (clay layer, etc.) to form a Perched water table

Saturated zone

  1. Water seeks its own level
  2. Water will flow from high water levels to low water levels
  3. Water levels can be measured by wells
  4. Contour map of water levels can provide information on groundwater flow directions
  5. In most cases, water flow direction is perpendicular to the water level contour lines (from high to low values of water level)


  • Surface water and groundwater are generally connected with flows in and out of the subsurface
  • Surface areas where water flows from surface into groundwater are called recharge areas
  • Surface areas where water flows from groundwater out onto ground surface are called discharge areas


  1. Contours are lines on 2-dimensional maps representing equal values of a parameter
  2. You are probably used to looking at topographic maps which show contour lines of ground surface elevation
  3. When a map is made with equal interval contour lines (every 1 ft, or every 2 ft, or every 5 ft, etc.), the spacing of contour lines provides visual clues to the change in slope
  4. Closely spaced contour lines would represent steep slopes
  5. Widely spaced contour lines would represent gentle slopes
  6. Water level contour maps provide the same information on water level slopes (hydraulic gradients)


  1. Hydraulic gradient is the slope of the water level
  2. Hydraulic gradient = [water level at point A - water level at point B]/Distance between point A and B
  3. Large hydraulic gradient = steep slope in water level change
  4. Most regional groundwater flow has values of 0.001 to 0.0001
  5. Hydraulic gradient of 0.001 = 0.1 ft (1.2 inches) drop in water level over 100 ft distance
  6. Hydraulic gradient of 0.0001 = 0.01 ft (0.1 inch) drop in water level over 100 ft distance


  1. Henri Darcy was a French engineer in late 1800s
  2. Darcy studied the flow of water through sand filters for water treatment
  3. He measured the flow rate or discharge (with units of volume of water per unit time; similar to stream discharge) through porous medium (sand)
  4. Q is the abbreviation for flow rate
  5. He found Q increased with increasing hydraulic gradient (steeper sloping water level)
  6. He found Q increased with cross-sectional area of flow (similar to streams)
  7. He defined an empirical constant for geologic material called hydraulic conductivity


  1. Hydraulic Conductivity is term used for permeability of geologic material to water flow
  2. K is abbreviation for hydraulic conductivity
  3. Units are length/time
  4. Q = K * Cross-Sectional Area (A) * Hydraulic Gradient


  • Velocity of water through porous medium can be calculated with Darcy's Law
  • Velocity = (K * Hydraulic Gradient)/Effective Porosity


  • Losing streams occur when surrounding groundwater levels are lower than the stream's water level
  • Gaining streams occur when surrounding groundwater levels are higher than the stream's water level
  • Flow in streams provided by groundwater is called baseflow


  • Water flows freely from ground surface
  • Occur where water table intersects ground surface
  • Springs seen along cliff faces generally occur when downward percolating water collects on an impermeable rock layer this perched water table will flow out of cliff face above the impermeable layer
  • Springs occur when fractures in impermeable rocks bring water to surface
  • Springs occur when solution channels in limestone bring water to surface


  • Hole bored or drilled into the saturated zone
  • Can measure water level in aquifer
  • Can obtain water samples
  • Can pump water to surface for water supply


  • Pumping water from a well causes a lowering of the water level in the well (drawdown)
  • Water will flow from surrounding geologic material (high water level) to the well (low water level)
  • Cone of depression in the water surface produced by pumping


  1. High Plains aquifer occurs in the states of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming
  2. Ogalalla Formation (also referred to as Ogalalla Aquifer) is the principal aquifer in the High Plains aquifer
  3. Other permeable formations (sandstones, siltstones) are also part of the High Plains Aquifer
  4. Ogalalla Aquifer is an unconfined aquifer consisting of alluvium (sand and gravel)
  5. The alluvium was deposited by streams draining from the eastern Rocky Mountains
  6. Aquifer is recharged by rainfall (16 inches annually in western part of aquifer, up to 28 inches annually in eastern part of aquifer)
  7. Potential evapotranspiration ranges from 60 to 105 inches annually
  8. You do the math - how much recharge could occur!
  9. Potential evapo transpiration refers to maximum possible evapo-transpiration and generally actual evapotranspiration is lower
  10. Estimates of annual recharge to the aquifer are 0.024 to 6 inches per year
  11. Saturated thickness of alluvial aquifer ranges from 0 to 1000 ft and averages about 200 ft thick
  12. Prior to development, 3.42 billion acre-feet of drainable water was in storage in the aquifer
  13. Starting in the late 19th century, the aquifer was tapped by wells for irrigation
  14. By 1978, 170,000 wells pumped 23 million acre-ft per year
  15. In some areas, pumping rate exceeded aquifer recharge rate resulting in water table declines up to 100 ft
  16. Still have 3.25 billion acre-feet of drainable water in aquifer
  17. However, increased cost of pumping from deeper depths prohibits the use of this water for farming


  1. http:// www.geology.sdsu
  2. Earth Geology and its exploration.
  3. Design of Small hydropower projects.
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