Aquifer - Human Dependence On Groundwater

Human Dependence On Groundwater

Most land areas on Earth have some form of aquifer underlying them, sometimes at significant depths.

Fresh-water aquifers, especially those with limited recharge by meteoric water, can be over-exploited and, depending on the local hydrogeology, may draw in non-potable water or saltwater (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 be contaminated by mineral poisons, such as arsenic - see Arsenic contamination of groundwater.

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.

Aquifer depletion has been cited as one of the causes of the food price rises of 2011.

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