Aquifer - Groundwater in Rock Formations

Groundwater in Rock Formations

Groundwater may exist in underground rivers (e.g., caves where water flows freely underground). This may occur in eroded limestone areas known as karst topography, which make up only a small percentage of Earth's area. More usual is that the pore spaces of rocks in the subsurface are simply saturated with water — like a kitchen sponge — which can be pumped out for agricultural, industrial, or municipal uses.

If a rock unit of low porosity is highly fractured, it can also make a good aquifer (via fissure flow), provided the rock has an appreciable hydraulic conductivity to facilitate movement of water. Porosity is important, but, alone, it does not determine a rock's ability of being an aquifer. Areas of the Deccan Traps (a basaltic lava) in west central India are good examples of rock formations with high porosity but low permeability, which makes them poor aquifers. Similarly, the micro-porous (Upper Cretaceous) Chalk of south east England, although having a reasonably high porosity, has a low grain-to-grain permeability, with much of its good water-yielding characteristics being due to micro-fracturing and fissuring.

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