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Aquifer

Definition

Function

Process

Groundwater

Effects on Soil

Relationship to Soil Subsidence


What is an Aquifer?

An aquifer is a body of saturated rock through which water can easily move. Aquifers
must be both permeable and porous and include such rock types as sandstone,
conglomerate, fractured limestone and unconsolidated sand and gravel. Fractured
volcanic rocks such as columnar basalts also make good aquifers. The rubble zones
between volcanic flows are generally both porous and permeable and make excellent
aquifers. In order for a well to be productive, it must be drilled into an aquifer. Rocks
such as granite and schist are generally poor aquifers because they have a very low
porosity. However, if these rocks are highly fractured, they make good aquifers. A
well is a hole drilled into the ground to penetrate an aquifer. Normally such water
must be pumped to the surface. If water is pumped from a well faster than it is
replenished, the water table is lowered and the well may go dry. When water is
pumped from a well, the water table is generally lowered into a cone of depression at
the well. Groundwater normally flows down the slope of the water table towards the
well.

One of Idaho's major aquifers is the Snake River Plain Aquifer. Click here to read more
information about it.

Is an Aquifer an Underground River?


No. Almost all aquifers are not rivers. Since water moves slowly through pore spaces in an
aquifer's rock or sediment, the only life-forms that could enjoy floating such a 'river' would be
bacteria or viruses which are small enough to fit through the pore spaces. True underground
rivers are found only in cavernous rock formations where the rock surrounding cracks or
fractures has been dissolved away to leave open channels through which water can move very
rapidly, like a river.

Ground water has to squeeze through pore spaces of rock and sediment to move through an
aquifer (the porosity of such aquifers make them good filters for natural purification. Because it
takes effort to force water through tiny pores, ground water loses energy as it flows, leading to a
decrease in hydraulic head in the direction of flow. Larger pore spaces usually have higher
permeability, produce less energy loss, and therefore allow water to move more rapidly. For this
reason, ground water can move rapidly over large distances in aquifers whose pore spaces are
large (like the lower Portneuf River aquifer) or where porosity arises from interconnected
fractures. Ground water moves very rapidly in fractured rock aquifers like the basalts of the
eastern Snake River Plain. In such cases, the spread of contaminants can be difficult or
impossible to prevent.

What does an aquifer look like?


Every aquifer is unique, although some are more generic than others. The boundaries of an
aquifer are usually gradational into other aquifers, so that an aquifer can be part of an aquifer
system. The top of an unconfined aquifer is the water table. A confined aquifer has at least one
aquitard at its top and, if it is stacked with others, an aquitard at its base.
Figure 1 shows an example of an aquifer system in the lower
Portneuf River valley. The diagram represents a cut-away
perspective view of this system of multiple aquifers and is
greatly exaggerated in its vertical scale to show some of the
details. Several different aquifers occur in this valley. In the
northern valley (beneath Chubbuck and north Pocatello) multiple
confined aquifers are stacked on top of one another and
separated by aquitards made of clay; the aquifers tapped by figure 1. Click on image for larger view.
Chubbuck's municipal wells are in the fractured basalts of the
eastern Snake River Plain. In the southern valley (Portneuf Gap to Red Hill) the upper surface of
the unconfined aquifer is the water table.

How Does an Aquifer Work?


An aquifer is filled with moving water and the amount of water in storage in the aquifer can vary
from season to season and year to year. Ground water may flow through an aquifer at a rate of 50
feet per year or 50 inches per century, depending on the permeability. But no matter how fast or
slow, water will eventually discharge or leave an aquifer and must be replaced by new water to
replenish or recharge the aquifer. Thus, every aquifer has a
recharge zone or zones and a discharge zone or zones.

Figure 2 is a simple cartoon showing three different types of


aquifers: confined, unconfined, and perched. Recharge zones are
typically at higher altitudes but can occur wherever water enters
an aquifer, such as from rain, snowmelt, river and reservoir
leakage, or from irrigation. Discharge zones can occur
anywhere; in the diagram, discharge occurs not only in springs
near the stream and in wetlands at low altitude, and also figure 2. Click on image for larger view.
from wells and high-altitude springs.

The amount of water in storage in an aquifer is reflected in the elevation of its water table. If the
rate of recharge is less than the natural discharge rate plus well production, the water table will
decline and the aquifer's storage will decrease. A perched aquifer's water table is usually highly
sensitive to the amount of seasonal recharge so a perched aquifer typically can go dry in
summers or during drought years.

Why is Groundwater So Clean?


Aquifers are natural filters that trap sediment and other particles (like bacteria) and provide
natural purification of the ground water flowing through them.

Like a coffee filter, the pore spaces in an aquifer's rock or sediment purify ground water of
particulate matter (the 'coffee grounds') but not of dissolved substances (the 'coffee'). Also, like
any filter, if the pore sizes are too large, particles like bacteria can get through. This can be a
problem in aquifers in fractured rock (like the Snake River Plain, or areas outside the sediment-
filled valleys of southeast Idaho).
Clay particles and other mineral surfaces in an aquifer also can trap dissolved substances or at
least slow them down so they don't move as fast as water percolating through the aquifer.

Natural filtration in soils is very important in recharge areas and in irrigated areas above
unconfined aquifers, where water applied at the surface can percolate through the soil to the
water table. For example, in the lower Portneuf River valley (Figure 1), a protective layer of silt
in the southern valley provides natural protection to the aquifer from septic systems, pesticide
application, and accidental chemical spills.

Despite natural purification, concentrations of some elements in ground water can be high in
instances where the rocks and minerals of an aquifer contribute high concentrations of certain
elements. In some cases, such as iron staining, health impacts due to high concentrations of
dissolved iron are not a problem as much as the aesthetic quality of the drinking water supply. In
other cases, where elements such as fluoride, uranium, or arsenic occur naturally in high
concentrations, human health may be affected.

How is an Aquifer Contaminated?


As shown in Figure 3, an aquifer can be contaminated by many things we do at and
near the surface of the earth. Contaminants reach the water table by any natural or
manmade pathway along which water can flow from the surface to the aquifer.

Deliberate disposal of waste at point sources such as landfills, septic tanks, injection
wells and storm drain wells can have an impact on the quality of ground water in an
aquifer.

In general, any activity which creates a pathway that speeds the rate at which water
can move from the surface to the water table has an
impact. In Figure 3, waste water leaking down the casing
of a poorly constructed well bypasses the natural
purification afforded by soil. Excessive addition of
fertilizer, agrichemicals, and road de-icing chemicals over
broad areas, coupled with the enhanced recharge from
crops, golf courses and other irrigated land and along figure 3. Click on image for larger view.
road ditches, are common reasons for contamination
arising from non-point sources. Removal of soil in excavations and mining reduces
the purification potential and also enhances recharge; in some cases, such as the
Highway Pond gravel pits south of Pocatello, the water table is exposed and becomes
directly vulnerable to the entry of contaminants.

Source Information

http://imnh.isu.edu/digitalatlas/hydr/concepts/gwater/aquifer.htm
Aquifers and Groundwater
I hope you appreciate my spending an

hour in the blazing sun to dig this hole at the beach. It is a great way to
illustrate the concept of how, below a certain depth, the ground, if it is
permeable enough to hold water, is saturated with water. The upper surface
of this zone of saturation is called the water table. The saturated zone
beneath the water table is called an aquifer, and aquifers are huge
storehouses of water. What you are looking at in this picture is a "well" that
exposes the water table, with an aquifer beneath it. Of course, I am cheating
here, as at the beach, the level of the water table is always at the same level
as the ocean, which is just below the surface of the beach.

Groundwater is one of our most valuable resourceeven though you


probably never see it or even realize it is there. As you may have read, most
of the void spaces in the rocks below the water table are filled with water.
But rocks have different porosity and permeability characteristics, which
means that water does not move around the same way in all rocks below
ground.

When a water-bearing rock readily transmits water to wells and springs, it is


called an aquifer. Wells can be drilled into the aquifers and water can be
pumped out. Precipitation eventually adds water (recharge) into the porous
rock of the aquifer. The rate of recharge is not the same for all aquifers,
though, and that must be considered when pumping water from a well.
Pumping too much water too fast draws down the water in the aquifer and
eventually causes a well to yield less and less water and even run dry. In
fact, pumping your well too much can even cause your neighbor's well to run
dry if you both are pumping from the same aquifer.

In the diagram below, you can see how the ground below the water table
(the blue area) is saturated with water. The "unsaturated zone" above the
water table (the greenish area) still contains water (after all, plants' roots
live in this area), but it is not totally saturated with water. You can see this in
the two drawings at the bottom of the diagram, which show a close-up of
how water is stored in between underground rock particles.

Sometimes the porous rock layers become tilted in the earth. There might
be a confining layer of less porous rock both above and below the porous
layer. This is an example of a confined aquifer. In this case, the rocks
surrounding the aquifer confines the pressure in the porous rock and its
water. If a well is drilled into this "pressurized" aquifer, the internal pressure
might (depending on the ability of the rock to transport water) be enough to
push the water up the well and up to the surface without the aid of a pump,
sometimes completely out of the well. This type of well is called artesian.
The pressure of water from an artesian well can be quite dramatic.

A relationship does not necessarily exist between the water-bearing capacity


of rocks and the depth at which they are found. A very dense granite that
will yield little or no water to a well may be exposed at the land surface.
Conversely, a porous sandstone, such as the Dakota Sandstone mentioned
previously, may lie hundreds or thousands of feet below the land surface and
may yield hundreds of gallons per minute of water. Rocks that yield
freshwater have been found at depths of more than 6,000 feet, and salty
water has come from oil wells at depths of more than 30,000 feet. On the
average, however, the porosity and permeability of rocks decrease as their
depth below land surface increases; the pores and cracks in rocks at great
depths are closed or greatly reduced in size because of the weight of
overlying rocks.

Pumping can affect the level of the water table

Groundwater occurs in
the saturated soil and rock below the water table. If the aquifer is shallow
enough and permeable enough to allow water to move through it at a rapid-
enough rate, then people can drill wells into it and withdraw water. The level
of the water table can naturally change over time due to changes in weather
cycles and precipitation patterns, streamflow and geologic changes, and
even human-induced changes, such as the increase in impervious surfaces
on the landscape.

The pumping of wells can have a great deal of influence on water levels
below ground, especially in the vicinity of the well, as this diagram shows. If
water is withdrawn from the ground at a faster rate that it is replenished,
either by infiltration from the surface or from streams, then the water table
can become lower, resulting in a "cone of depression" around the well.
Depending on geologic and hydrologic conditions of the aquifer, the impact
on the level of the water table can be short-lived or last for decades, and it
can fall a small amount or many hundreds of feet. Excessive pumping can
lower the water table so much that the wells no longer supply waterthey
can "go dry."

Water movement in aquifers

Water movement in aquifers is highly dependent of the permeability of the


aquifer material. Permeable material contains interconnected cracks or
spaces that are both numerous enough and large enough to allow water to
move freely. In some permeable materials groundwater may move several
metres in a day; in other places, it moves only a few centimeters in a
century. Groundwater moves very slowly through relatively impermeable
materials such as clay and shale. (Source: Environment Canada)

After entering an aquifer, water moves slowly toward lower lying places and
eventually is discharged from the aquifer from springs, seeps into streams,
or is withdrawn from the ground by wells. Groundwater in aquifers between
layers of poorly permeable rock, such as clay or shale, may be confined
under pressure. If such a confined aquifer is tapped by a well, water will rise
above the top of the aquifer and may even flow from the well onto the land
surface. Water confined in this way is said to be under artesian pressure,
and the aquifer is called an artesian aquifer.

http://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthgwaquifer.html
Executive Summary
Artificial recharge is the planned, man-made increase of groundwater
levels. By improving its natural replenishment capacities
and percolation from surface waters into aquifers, the amount
of groundwater available for abstraction is increased.
Treated effluent and/or stormwater is discharged into aquifers either
directly or after pre-treatment (e.g. wastewaterstabilisation ponds
or constructed wetlands). This is particularly useful in areas where water
and groundwater resources are heavily utilised and acute problems with
dropping watersheds, soil salinisation, saltwater intrusion in coastal areas
or water scarcity in general exist. Artificial surface groundwater
recharge refers to different groundwater recharge techniques that
release effluent from above the ground into the groundwater aquifervia
soil percolation.

In Out

Precipitation, Freshwater, Greywater, Treated


Freshwater
Water

Introduction

Artificial groundwater recharge is the planned infiltration of effluents from sanitation


systems(e.g. wastewater stabilisation ponds, surface, horizontal flow or vertical flow
constructed wetlands), storm water or surface runoff into the aquifer in order to increase the
natural replenishment of groundwater resources. Artificial surface groundwater
recharge refers to different groundwater recharge techniques that release effluent from
above the ground into the groundwater aquifer via soil percolation. Groundwater recharge is
increasing in popularity as groundwater resources are being depleted and saltwater intrusion
is becoming a greater threat to coastal communities (TILLEY et al. 2008).

Although the primary objective of this technology is to preserve or


increase groundwaterresources, artificial recharge has been used for many other beneficial
purposes. These include additional treatment (through soil filtration) and conservation or
disposal of treated wastewater or floodwaters, control of saltwater intrusion, storage of
water to reduce pumping and piping costs as well as temporary regulation
of groundwater abstraction. Furthermore water quality can be improved through the removal
of suspended solids via soil filtration (see also soil aquifer treatment) or through the dilution
with naturally occurring groundwater(ASANO 1985). Moreover, artificial recharge is used in
waste treatment, secondary oil recovery, prevention of land subsidence, storage
of freshwater within saline aquifers, crop development and stream flow augmentation
(OAKSFORD 1985; UNEP 1998).

Basic Design Principles

A contaminated aquifer (e.g. by toxic chemicals) is next to impossible to recover. Therefore


heavily polluted wastewater should be treated before surface groundwater recharge, even
though the method provides some soil filtration treatment during percolation.

For surface groundwater recharge the assimilation capacity of the receiving soil body and the
hydro geological conditions must be studied carefully. The following basic factors should be
considered in particular (UNEP 1998):

Location of geologic and hydraulic boundaries


Depth of the aquifer and transmissivity of the overlying material
Lithology
Storage capacity
Porosity
Hydraulic conductivity and natural in- and outflow of water to/from the aquifer
Availability of land, surrounding land use and topography
Economic and legal aspects concerning the recharge
Degree of public acceptance

To avoid chemical reactions that would reduce aquifer porosity and recharge capacity, the
recharge water must be chemically compatible with the naturally occurring groundwater and
the aquifer material that it flows through.

During operation, the quality (turbidity from sediments but also algae
and bacteria, temperature, suspended solids, BOD, nitrogen and phosphorus, other
chemicals, etc.) and quantity of the water to be recharged must be carefully controlled and
monitored.
Surface Groundwater Recharge Methods

A variety of methods have been developed and applied to artificially


recharge groundwaterreservoirs in various parts of the world. Generally these methods are
classified as surface and subsurface groundwater recharge.

Direct surface recharge techniques are among the simplest and most widely applied
methods. Subsurface groundwater recharge conveys water directly into an aquifer without
the filtrationor oxidation that occurs when water percolates naturally through
an unsaturated zone (UNEP 1998).

Direct Surface Groundwater Recharge

With direct groundwater recharge water moves from storage aboveground to the aquifer via
soil percolation. Most of the existing large-scale artificial recharge schemes in Western
countries make use of this technique,which typically employs infiltration basins (spreading
basins) to enhance the natural percolation of water into the ground. Field studies of
spreading techniques have shown that, of the many factors governing the amount of water
that will enter the aquifer, the area of recharge and length of time that water is in contact
with soil are the most important (TODD 1980). In general direct surface recharge systems
based on percolationhave relatively low construction costs and are easy to operate and
maintain.

Spreading Basins

Groundwater recharge in spreading basins, Arizona. Source: CAP(2002)


This method involves surface spreading of water in basins that are excavated in the existing
terrain. For effective artificial recharge, highly permeable soils are required and maintenance
of the water layer above the soil surface is necessary. Recharge in spreading basins is most
effective where there are no impending layers between the land surface and the aquifer and
where clear water is available for recharge. In addition this method tolerates more turbid
water than any well recharge methods does (O'HARE et al. 1986).

Recharge Pits and Shafts

Groundwater recharge in trenches. Source: BATES (2004)

Shafts can have circular, rectangular, or square cross sections and may be backfilled with
porous material enhancing the percolation process and preventing the stagnation of the water
(which can lead to insect breading). The shaft may end above the water table or reach below
the water table and serve as hydraulic connector (O'HARE et al. 1986).

Ditches

Ditches are similar to spreading basins but they have a different shape. A ditch can be
described as a long narrow trench, its bottom width being less than its depth. A ditch system
can be designed to suit the topographic and geologic conditions that exist at a given site
(O'HARE et al. 1986). Water fills up in the ditches and percolates naturally through the soil.

Other Recharge Techniques

Another method of artificially recharging groundwater is to use permeable pavements,which


allows water surface runoff (e.g. storm water) to trickle underground, rather than allowing it
to pool on the surface and evaporate (SMITH 2003).
Flood irrigation of surface water applied to surrounding farmlands is also a vital source
of groundwater recharge. As agricultural land is converted to urban use, identifying sites for
additional groundwater recharge is essential to keep water supplies balanced (water
consumption of urban areas are generally lower, but impact of deep percolation from
flood irrigation is lost; FRESNO 2005).

Applicability
Groundwater recharge methods are particularly useful in areas with aquifers with long
retention times, where water and groundwater resources are heavily utilised and acute
problems with dropping watersheds, soil salinisation, saltwater intrusion in coastal areas or
water scarcity in general exist.

The effectiveness of discharge into an aquifer will depend entirely on the quality and
quantity of the water to be infiltrated, local environmental conditions (e.g. hydraulic
conductivity, nutrient assimilation capacity of the receiving soil body) and legal regulations.

While surface injection methods require relatively flat or gently sloped lands, topography has
little effect on subsurface recharge methods. Aquifers best suited for artificial recharge are
those that can absorb and retain large quantities of water. In temperate humid climates the
following alluvial areas are best suited for artificial recharge: areas of ancient alluvium,
buried fossil riverbeds and alluvial fans interlinked by main valley and
tributaries.In arid zones, recent river alluvium may be more suitable. Coastal dunes and
deltaic areas are also often very favourable areas for artificial recharge schemes (UNEP 1998).

The physical, chemical and biological quality of recharge water also affects the selection of
the recharge method. If suspended solids are present, surface application techniques tend to
be more efficient than sub-surface techniques that can result in clogging of injection wells.
Water containing toxic chemicals or chemicals that could reduce aquifer porosity or recharge
capacity must be pre-treated if used for artificial groundwater recharge.

Cultural considerations and socio-economic concerns often affect the selection of a recharge
method and site. The availability of land, land uses in adjacent areas, public attitude and
legal requirements generally play a role in defining the acceptability of artificial recharge in a
given setting. In urban areas, where land availability, costs and uses in adjacent areas may
impose restrictions, injection wells, shafts or small pits requiring highly controlled water
supplies and little land area may be preferable to larger scale, surface spreading recharge
methods. Surface recharge facilities generally require protected property boundaries, regular
maintenance and continuous surveillance if they are to be accepted by the public.

Advantages
May provide a drought-proof water supply (from groundwater)
Technology is easy to understand and operate
Groundwater recharge collects water during wet season for use in dry season, when
demand is highest
In many river basins, surface water runoff is controlled due to aquifer recharge,
resulting in less sedimentation problems
Recharge with less-saline surface waters or treated effluents improve the quality of
saline aquifers, facilitating the use of the water for agriculture and livestock

Disadvantages
Discharge of nutrients and micro-pollutants may negatively affect the receiving soil
and aquifer
Introduction of pollutants may have long-term impacts
Potential of groundwater contamination from injected surface water runoff, especially
from agricultural fields and road surfaces
Recharge can degrade the aquifer unless quality control of the injected water is
adequate
Unless significant volumes can be injected into an aquifer, groundwater recharge may
not be economically feasible
During the construction of water traps, disturbances of soil and vegetation cover may
cause environmental damage to the project area
http://www.sswm.info/content/surface-groundwater-recharge

<Sourcebook of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augumentation


in Some Countries in Asia>

3.10 Artificial Recharge of Groundwater

Technical Description

Artificial recharge is the planned, human activity of augmenting the amount of groundwater available
through works designed to increase the natural replenishment or percolation of surface waters into the
groundwater aquifers, resulting in a corresponding increase in the amount of groundwater available for
abstraction. Although the primary objective of this technology is to preserve or enhance groundwater
resources, artificial recharge has been used for many other beneficial purposes. Some of these purposes
include conservation or disposal of floodwaters, control of saltwater intrusion, storage of water to reduce
pumping and piping costs, temporary regulation of groundwater abstraction, and water quality
improvement by removal of suspended solids by filtration through the ground or by dilution by mixing with
naturally-occurring groundwaters (Asano, 1985). Artificial recharge also has application in wastewater
disposal, waste treatment, secondary oil recovery, prevention of land subsidence, storage of freshwater
within saline aquifers, crop development, and streamflow augmentation (Oaksford, 1985).

A variety of methods have been developed and applied to artificially recharge groundwater reservoirs in
various parts of the world. Details of these methods, as well as related topics, can be found in the
literature (e.g., Todd, 1980; Huisman and Olsthoorn, 1983; Asano, 1985; CGWB, 1994). The methods
may be generally classified in the following four categories (Oaksford, 1985):

(1) Direct Surface Recharge Technique (ASANO, 1985).

(2) Direct Subsurface Recharge Technique.

(3) Combination surface-subsurface methods, including subsurface drainage (collectors with wells),
basins with pits, shafts, and wells.

(4) Indirect Recharge Techniques.

Direct surface recharge techniques are among the simplest and most widely applied methods. In this
method, water moves from the land surface to the aquifer by means of percolation through the soil. Most
of the existing large scale artificial recharge schemes in western countries make use of this technique
which typically employs infiltration basins to enhance the natural percolation of water into the subsurface
(Dewan Mohamed et al., 1983). Field studies of spreading techniques have shown that, of the many
factors governing the amount of water that will enter the aquifer, the area of recharge and length of time
that water is in contact with soil are the most important (Todd, 1980). In general, these methods have
relatively low construction costs and are easy to operate and maintain. Direct subsurface recharge
techniques convey water directly into an aquifer. In all the methods of subsurface recharge, the quality of
the recharged water is of primary concern. Recharged water enters the aquifer without the filtration and
oxidation that occurs when water percolates naturally through the unsaturated zone.

Direct subsurface recharge methods access deeper aquifers and require less land than the direct surface
recharge methods, but are more expensive to construct and maintain. Recharge wells, commonly called
injection wells, are generally used to replenish groundwater when aquifers are deep and separated from
the land surface by materials of low permeability. All the subsurface methods are susceptible to clogging
by suspended solids, biological activity or chemical impurities. Recharge wells have been used to dispose
of treated industrial wastewaters, to add freshwater to coastal aquifers experiencing saltwater intrusion,
and to force water under pressure into permeable bedrock aquifers to arrest land subsidence resulting
from extensive withdrawals of groundwater, although with variable success (CGWB, 1994). In many
places, including the United States, Japan and Thailand, the use of injection wells is still considered
experimental (Dewan Mohamed et al., 1983).

Combinations of several direct surface and subsurface techniques can be used in conjunction with one
another to meet specific recharge needs.

Indirect methods of artificial recharge include the installation of groundwater pumping facilities or
infiltration galleries near hydraulically-connected surface waterbodies (such as streams or lakes) to lower
groundwater levels and induce infiltration elsewhere in the drainage basin, and modification of aquifers or
construction of new aquifers to enhance or create groundwater reserves. The effectiveness of the former,
induced recharge method depends upon the number and proximity of surface waterbodies, the hydraulic
conductivity (or transmissivity) of the aquifer, the area and permeability of the streambed or lake bottom,
and the hydraulic gradient created by pumping. Using the latter technique, aquifers can be modified by
structures that impede groundwater outflow or that create additional storage capacity. Groundwater
barriers or dams have been built within river beds in many places, including India, to obstruct and detain
groundwater flows so as to sustain the storage capacity of the aquifer and meet water demands during
periods of greatest need. Construction of complete small-scale aquifers also seems feasible (Helweg and
Smith, 1978). Notwithstanding, indirect methods generally provide less control over the quantity and
quality of the water than do the direct methods.

Extent of Use
The concept of artificial recharge has been known for a long time. The practice began in Europe during
the early nineteenth century. However, the practice has rarely been adopted on a large scale, with most
large scale applications being found in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and USA (Dewan
Mohamed et al., 1983). Israel transports 300 million cubic metres of water annually from north to south
through the National Water Carrier System and stores two-thirds of it underground (Ambroggi, 1977). The
water is used to meet high summer demands and offers a reliable source of supply during dry years. On
the North Plain of China, which is prone to droughts, water from nearby streams is diverted into
underground storage areas with capacities of about 500 million cubic metres. Several counties in Hebei
Province are using artificially recharged aquifers to combat sinking water tables (Widstrand, 1978). In
India, subsurface storage has caught on as a way of providing a reliable source of irrigation water. A
number of artificial recharge projects have been carried out in that country (CGWB, 1994) (see Case
Studies, Chapter 5).

Operation and Maintenance

To ensure the effective and efficient operation of an artificial recharge system, a thorough and detailed
hydrogeological study must be conducted before selecting the site and method of recharge. In particular,
the following basic factors should be considered: the locations of geologic and hydraulic boundaries; the
transmissivity, depth to the aquifer and lithology, storage capacity, porosity, hydraulic conductivity, and
natural inflow and outflow of water to the aquifer; the availability of land, surrounding land use and
topography; the quality and quantity of water to be recharged; the economic and legal aspects governing
recharge; and the level of public acceptance.

Level of Involvement

Because of the technical complexity involved in siting and regulating artificial recharge, this technology is
generally implemented at the governmental level.

Costs

Rushton and Phadtare (1989) describe artificial recharge pilot projects in both alluvial and limestone
aquifers in Mehsana area of Gujarat, India. Recharge was accomplished using spreading channels,
percolation tanks and injection wells. Table 11 presents a summary of the initial and operational costs for
the various schemes. The most expensive scheme, an injection well feeding an alluvial aquifer, had initial
and operating costs per unit volume of recharged water of $100/m3.

TABLE 11. Costs of Various Artificial Recharge Schemes in India ($/m3).

Artificial Recharge Structure Initial Cost Running Cost


Injection well (alluvial area) 100 100
Spreading Channel (alluvial area) 9 10
Percolation Tank (alluvial area) 2 7
Injection well (limestone area) 6 21
Spreading Channel (limestone area) 7 6

It is apparent from Table 11 that injection wells in hard rock areas are less expensive since they tend to be
shallower and have a lesser risks of clogging. Percolation tanks appeared to be least expensive in terms
of initial construction costs; this would be the case in areas where the tanks already exist. In such cases,
the initial cost only involves the cleaning of the bed of the tank. For economic reasons, the main uses of
artificially recharged water are likely to be providing water for domestic needs, industry and environmental
conservation. Because of its relatively high cost, recharged water is not generally suited for irrigation for a
total crop, but it can be used to provide supplemental irrigation water for rain-fed crops or to provide
additional water to crops at a crucial growth stage during periods of water shortage. As a general rule in
this regard, groundwater must be efficiently used and effectively applied such that the net benefits from its
use are maximized over time. Guidelines for the socio-economic and financial appraisal of artificial
recharge projects in developing countries, necessary to assess these net benefits, are provided by
CGWB (1994).

Suitability

Groundwater recharge methods are suitable for use in areas where aquifers exist. Typically, unconfined
aquifers are recharged by surface injection methods, whereas confined aquifers are generally recharged
through subsurface injection. Surface injection methods require relatively flat or gently sloping lands,
while topography has little effect on subsurface recharge methods. Aquifers best suited for artificial
recharge are those which can absorb and retain large quantities of water. In temperate humid climates,
the alluvial areas which are best suited to artificial recharge are areas of ancient alluvium, the buried fossil
river-beds and interlinked alluvial fans of their main valley and tributaries. In the arid zone, recent river
alluvium may be more favourable than in humid zones. In these areas, the water table is subject to
pronounced natural fluctuations. Surface recharge methods are best suited to these cases. Coastal dunes
and deltaic areas are also often very favourable areas for artificial recharge schemes. Dense urban and
industrial concentrations in such areas may render artificial recharge schemes desirable, generally using
subsurface recharge wells to inject surface water into the aquifers.

When the quantity and availability of recharge water is highly variable, such as in an intermittent stream,
any of the surface application methods are suitable. Basin and pit techniques have the greatest
advantages because they can be designed to accommodate expected flood flows. In contrast, shafts and
wells have little storage capacity and, therefore, require a more uniform supply of water. Indirect methods,
such as induced recharge, are virtually unaffected by changes in surface water flows because the rate of
recharge is controlled by extraction rates (Oaksford, 1985).

The physical, chemical and biological quality of recharge water also affects the selection of recharge
method. If suspended solids are present, surface application techniques tend to be more efficient than
subsurface techniques where they can result in clogging of injection wells. It is also important that the
recharge water be chemically compatible with the aquifer material though which it flows and the naturally
occurring groundwater to avoid chemical reactions that would reduce aquifer porosity and recharge
capacity. Toxic substances must not be present in the recharge water unless they can be removed by
pretreatment or chemically decomposed by a suitable land or aquifer treatment system. Similarly,
biological agents, such as algae and bacteria, can cause clogging of infiltration surfaces and wells,
limiting the subsequent use of the recharged water.

Effectiveness of the Technology

Various artificial recharge experiments have been carried out in India by different organizations, and have
established the technical feasibility of the artificial recharge of unconfined, semi-confined and confined
aquifer systems. However, the most important, and somewhat elusive, issue in determining the utility of
this technology is the economic and institutional aspects of artificial groundwater recharge. Experiences
with full-scale artificial recharge operations in India and elsewhere in Asia are limited. As a consequence,
cost information from such operations is incomplete. The available data, from certain hydrological
environs in which recharge experiments have been initiated and/or are in progress, suggest that the cost
of groundwater recharge can vary substantially. These costs are a function of availability of source water,
conveyance facilities, civil constructions, land, and groundwater pumping and monitoring facilities
(CGWB, 1994).

Advantages
As surface water augmentation methods, such as dams and diversions, have become more expensive
and less promising in terms of environmental considerations, the prospects of storing surplus surface
water underground and abstracting it whenever and wherever necessary appears to be more effective
technology. In urban areas, artificial recharge can maintain groundwater levels in situations where natural
recharge has become severely reduced.

Disadvantages

There are a number of problems associated with the use of artificial recharge techniques. These include
disadvantages related to aspects such as recovery efficiency (e.g., not all of the added water may be
recoverable), cost effectiveness, contamination risks due to injection of recharge water of poor quality,
clogging of aquifers, and a lack of knowledge about the long term implications of the recharge process.
Hence, careful consideration should be given to the selection of an appropriate site for artificial recharge
in a specific area.

Cultural Acceptability

Cultural considerations, stemming from socio-economic concerns, often enter into the selection of a
recharge method and site. The availability of land, land uses in adjacent areas, public attitudes, and legal
requirements generally play a role in defining the acceptability of artificial recharge in a given setting. In
urban areas, where land availability, costs and uses in adjacent areas may pose restrictions, injection
wells, shafts or small pits requiring highly controlled water supplies and little land area may be preferable
to larger scale, surface spreading recharge methods. Surface recharge facilities generally require
protected property boundaries, regular maintenance, and continuous surveillance if they are to be
acceptable to the public.

http://www.unep.or.jp/ietc/publications/techpublications/techpub-8e/artificial.asp

Aquifers: Underground Stores of


Freshwater
By Becky Oskin, Contributing Writer | January 14, 2015 10:04pm ET
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Credit: Environment Canada / USGS

Aquifers are underground layers of rock that are saturated with


water that can be brought to the surface through natural springs or
by pumping.

The groundwater contained in aquifers is one of the most important


sources of water on Earth: About 30 percent of our liquid freshwater
is groundwater, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA). The rest is found at the surface in streams,
lakes, rivers and wetlands. Most of the world's freshwater about
69 percent is locked away in glaciers and ice caps. The U.S.
Geological Survey website has a map of important aquifers in the
contiguous United States.
Groundwater can be found in a range of different types of rock, but
the most productive aquifers are found in porous, permeable rock
such as sandstone, or the open cavities and caves of limestone
aquifers. Groundwater moves more readily through these materials,
which allows for faster pumping and other methods of extracting the
water. Aquifers can also be found in regions where the rock is made
of denser material such as granite or basalt if that rock has
cracks and fractures.

"Aquifers come in many shapes and sizes, but they are really a
contained, underground repository of water," said Steven Phillips, a
hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Sacramento,
California.

Dense, impermeable material like clay or shale can act as an


"aquitard," i.e., a layer of rock or other material that is almost
impenetrable to water. Through groundwater might move through
such material, it will do so very slowly (if at all). Faults or mountains
can also block the movement of fresh groundwater, as can the
ocean, Phillips said.

An aquitard can trap groundwater in an aquifer and create an


artesian well. When groundwater flows beneath an aquitard from a
higher elevation area to a lower elevation, such as from a mountain
slope to a valley floor, the pressure on the groundwater can be
enough to force the water out of any well that's drilled into that
aquifer. Such wells are known as artesian wells, and the aquifers
they tap into are called artesian aquifers or confined aquifers.

How groundwater moves


When new surface water enters an aquifer, it "recharges" the
groundwater supply. Recharge primarily happens near mountains,
and groundwater flows usually flows downward from mountain
slopes toward streams and rivers by the force of gravity, Phillips
said. Depending on the density of the rock and soil through which
groundwater moves, it can creep along as slowly as a few
centimeters in a century, according to Environment Canada. In other
areas, where the rock and soil are looser and more permeable,
groundwater can move several feet in a day.
The water in an aquifer can be held beneath the Earth's surface for
many centuries: Hydrologists estimate that the water in some
aquifers is more than 10,000 years old (meaning that it fell to the
Earth's surface as rain or snow roughly 6,000 years before Egypt's
Great Pyramid of Giza was built). The oldest groundwater ever
found was discovered 2 miles (2.4 km) deep in a Canadian mine and
trapped there between 1.5 and 2.64 billion years ago.

But the deeper one digs for water, the saltier the liquid becomes,
Phillips said. "Groundwater can be very, very deep, but eventually
it's a brine," he said. "For freshwater, the depths are very limited."

Much of the drinking water on which society depends is contained in


shallow aquifers. For example, the Ogallala Aquifer a vast,
174,000 square-mile (450,000 square kilometers) groundwater
reservoir supplies almost one-third of America's agricultural
groundwater, and more than 1.8 million people rely on the Ogallala
Aquifer for their drinking water.

Similarly, Texas gets almost 60 percent of its water from


groundwater; in Florida, groundwater supplies more than 90 percent
of the state's freshwater. But these important sources of freshwater
are increasingly endangered.

Threats to aquifers
By 2010, about 30 percent of the Ogallala Aquifer's groundwater had
been tapped, according to a 2013 study from Kansas State
University. Some parts of the Ogallala Aquifer are now dry, and the
water table has declined more than 300 feet in other areas.

"The water levels have just been going down, down, down," Phillip
said. "A lot of that system was recharged 10,000 years ago during
the most recent glacial period, and what we're doing now is mining
the water. We're taking out old water that isn't being replenished."
The same problem is increasingly found throughout the world,
especially in areas where a rapidly growing population is placing
greater demand on limited aquifer resources pumping can, in
these places, exceed the aquifer's ability to recharge its
groundwater supplies.

When pumping of groundwater results in a lowering of the water


table, then the water table can drop so low that it's below the depth
of a well. In those cases, the well "runs dry" and no water can be
removed until the groundwater is recharged which, in some
cases, can take hundreds or thousands of years.

When the ground sinks because of groundwater pumping, it is


called subsidence. In California's southern San Joaquin Valley, where
farmers rely on wells for irrigation, the land surface settled 28 feet
(8.5 meters) between the 1920s and the 1970s.

"Land subsidence is a threat to aquifers and also to infrastructure on


the surface," Phillips said.

In addition to groundwater levels, the quality of water in an aquifer


can be threatened by saltwater intrusion (a particular problem in
coastal areas), biological contaminants such as manure or septic
tank discharge, and industrial chemicals such as pesticides or
petroleum products. And once an aquifer is contaminated, it's
notoriously difficult to remediate.

http://www.livescience.com/39625-aquifers.html

Soil Aquifer Treatment

Compiled by:
Risch Tratschin (seecon international gmbh)

Executive Summary
Soil Aquifer Treatment (SAT) is an artificial groundwater aquifer recharge
option. Water is introduced into the groundwater through soil percolationunder
controlled conditions. Soil aquifer treatment is either used to artificially augment
the groundwater in order to withdraw freshwater again at a later stage or as a
barrier to prevent saltwater or contaminants from entering the aquifer.
During percolation, natural soil filtration occurs and the water enters
the aquifer where mixing and possibly some other physical and chemical reactions
may occur. This method can be used with reclaimed water (treated blackwater) or
relatively little polluted water (e.g. pre-treated greywater or stormwater).

In Out

Precipitation, Blackwater, Greywater, Treated


Freshwater
Water

Introduction

Many cities and agricultural areas rely on the combined use of surface
water and groundwater. When demand increases, groundwater is often the most economic
source of supply, but overexploitation can lead to the deterioration of water quality or a
decreasing groundwater level. Eventually this leads to the depletion
of groundwater reserves. Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) refers to different recharge
techniques that release the reclaimed water from above the ground, percolating through
unsaturated soil (see surface groundwater recharge), or from below the ground, by injection
or recharge wells (see subsurface groundwater recharge) (CSIRO 2010). The utilisation of
alternative water sources is a promising option for integrated water management (MELIN
2009). The added advantage of this method is that reclaimed water such as
treated blackwater, greywater or stormwater is not just discharged into other surface
waters, but reused as water for irrigation in agriculture or to intentionally
recharge groundwater aquifers via MAR. Soil Aquifer Treatment (SAT) is one of
many MAR methods, which is receiving growing attention because it features advantages such
as inherent natural treatment, inbuilt storage capacity to buffer seasonal variations of supply
and demand as well as mixing with natural water bodies, which promotes the acceptance of
further uses, particularly indirect potable use (MELIN 2009).
How Does SAT Work?

SAT is one method used to recharge groundwater aquifers from the surface or from below the
surface. Typically, SAT is used to enter either stormwater (SHUTES et al. 2010) or pre-
treated wastewater (MELIN 2009) through a recharge basin (also: infiltration basin) or an
injection well (direct injection, see also surface groundwater recharge) e.g. when space is
not available for a recharge basin (see also subsurface groundwater recharge).

As the effluent moves through the soil and the aquifer, it can undergo significant quality
improvements through physical, chemical and biological processes. The water is stored in the
underlying unconfined aquifer generally for subsequent reuse, such as irrigation or even
for drinking water purposes (generally after a water purification step). In short, SAT has
benefits both in treatment in the dominated unsaturated zone, which acts like a natural filter
and storage within the saturated zone (groundwater aquifer) (MIOTLINSKI et al. 2010).

SAT system for pre-treated wastewater, infiltrating through recharge basins into permeable soil
(unsaturated zone) and recharging the groundwater aquifer. Source: MIOTLINSKI et al. (2010)

Depending on the wastewater quality, land availability and intended water supply
usage, SAT can be complemented by various pre-treatment technologies such
as horizontal, verticaland free-surface constructed wetlands, waste stabilisation ponds, UASB
reactor or advanced treatments such as activated sludge, membrane filtration, etc.

The quality of water extracted from a recharge aquifer depends on the quality of the
reclaimed water introduced (after pre-treatment), the method of recharge, the
characteristics of the aquifer, the residence time, the amount of blending with other waters
and the history of the system (TILLEY et al. 2008). Generally it poses challenges with regard
to public health (AERTGEERTS and ANGELAKIS 2003; ASANO and COTRUVO 2004).
Especially groundwater recharge with recycled wastewater presents a wide range of technical
and health challenges (ASANO and COTRUVO 2004). Although the unsaturated part of the soil
is known to act as a filter for a variety of contaminants, groundwater recharge should not be
viewed as a treatment method (TILLEY et al. 2008).
Impacts and Objectives of SAT

The SAT method can have the following objectives:

Safer Water Storage

Underground water storage can reduce the evaporation rate (especially in arid and semi-
aridregions) (MIOTLINSKI et al. 2010), the potential breeding places for insect-vector diseases
(especially stormwater drainage) (EAWAG and SANDEC 2008), and risk of contamination and
pollution (e.g. algae) compared to water stored on the surface. Taste and odour are also
better (ASANO and COTRUVO 2004). Aquifer recharge leads to storage of surplus water for
later use. The increased storage capacity buffers seasonal and weather pattern variations of
water availability and demand. It is thus a safe and reliable climate change adaptation
method to cope with water shortages (PITTOCK et al. 2009).

Mixing Water Flows

SAT enables the mixing of reclaimed and treated water with natural water bodies. This
promotes the acceptance of further uses, particularly indirect potable use (MELIN 2009).
Because the water is abstracted from wells user acceptance is generally high (ASANO and
COTRUVO 2004).

Quality Improvement

SAT is most commonly used to remove residual organic material, nitrogen and
pathogenic microorganisms before storing reclaimed water in the aquifer (NCSWS 2001).
Using SAT, biological oxygen demand (BOD) can be removed efficiently and ammonia can be
effectively nitrified under most conditions. Furthermore, a SAT system effectively
removes bacteria and viruses (JIMENEZ 2008). However, denitrification does not readily occur.

Mitigate Saltwater or Contaminants Intrusion

If the groundwater is too salty for use, recharge with fresher water e.g. stormwater will
displace the saltier water, help to mitigate or control saltwater intrusion into
coastal aquifers, or generally prevent intrusion of contaminants into the aquifer (BIXIO et al.
2006; PITTOCK et al. 2009).

Example: the Shafdan Treatment Plant, Israel

Since the 1970s, the Shafdan treatment plant (in the El Dan region, central Israel) uses
the SAT method. Today it is one of the biggest reclamation sites applying SAT, where the
method has ever since adapted to changing conditions (CIKUREL 2006).
Aerial picture of the Shafdan treatment plant, showing the SAT percolation ponds. Source: LOFTUS
(2011)

Reclaimed water flowing into a percolation or recharge pond. Source: LOFTUS (2011)

The plant infiltrates 130 x 106 m3/year of a biological


secondary effluent with nitrogenelimination through a series of open ponds. The cycle lasts
four days and the recharge rate is 70210 m/year. This way, 90% of BOD, Total Suspended
Solids (TSS), ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphorus are removed. However there is an increase
in salinity, due to the proximity to the coast, and in boron content, due to the type of soil
(ORON 2001; JIMENEZ 2008).

Parameter (mg/l) Before treatment After treatment Removal (%)

BOD 6 < 0.5 > 92

COD 46 7 85

TSS 7 0 100

DOC 11 2.8 75

Detergents 0.241 < 0.1 > 55

Mineral oils 0.4 0.3 25

Phenols 4 1 75

Ammonia as N 8.2 < 0.02 > 99

Total N 12 5.4 55

Phosphorus 2.7 0.05 98


Characteristics of Soil Aquifer Treatment in the Shafdan treatment plant (El Dan, central
Israel). Source: ORON (2001)

Today, the Shafdan plant applies a short SAT (to prevent production of proteins which lead to
clogging of nanofiltration membranes) combined with nanofiltration. This combination of
technologies was found to be superior to the conventional SAT technology in terms of land
use, time parameters, and water quality. The method enabled quick and efficient removal
of microorganisms and micropollutants, resulting in the production of water near drinkable
quality and suitable for irrigation use. The process was also found to be superior to the
combination of SAT and ultrafiltration, which, although it occupies a smaller land area, is
relatively more energy intensive, does not remove all micropollutants, and only produces
water quality for irrigation use (LOFTUS 2011).

Applicability
Adapted from: PHILIP et al (2011); PHEDM (n.y.)

SAT can be applied when facing issues with the quantity and the quality
of groundwateraquifers. It can be an option where groundwater levels are declining due to
overexploitation, where a substantial part of the aquifer has already been desaturated (e.g.
when regeneration of water in wells is slow), or where groundwater from wells is inadequate
during the dryer months. Also as another benefit, SAT can contribute to an improvement of
the aquifer water.

The suitability of SAT is dependent on the characteristics of the local groundwater and its
performance is closely related to local conditions such as the quality of the influent, soil type
and purpose of water. They will determine both, the applicability of the technology and the
level of required pre- and post-treatment. SAT should not be applied when it can contribute
to groundwater deterioration. SAT may also increase the risk of flooding in areas where
groundwater levels are already high.

Typical SAT systems require a large surface area to allow the infiltration of
the wastewaterinto the aquifer. In many cities the required land is costly and often
unavailable due to high population densities and covered land. Alternative SAT technologies,
that require much less land area, are however being investigated (e.g.
Short SAT Nanofiltration, LOFTUS 2011).
According to surveys, the best water reuse projects in terms of economic viability and public
acceptance are those that substitute potable water with reclaimed water for use
in irrigation, environmental restoration, cleaning, sanitation and industrial uses (PITTOCK et
al. 2009). In Europe, much of the municipal wastewater reuse has only occurred in the
coastline and islands of the semi-arid southern regions so far, and in the highly urbanised
areas of the wetter northern parts. In southern Europe reclaimed wastewater is
predominantly used for agricultural irrigation, whereas in northern Europe it is mainly used
for urban or environmental application and industrial use such as industrial cooling (BIXIO et
al. 2006).

Advantages
Low cost and a fitting option for wastewater reclamation
Increases capacity of existing groundwater resources, to buffer seasonal and weather
variations (i.e facilitating a drought-proof water supply)
Improvement of the quality of the infiltrated water through soil filtration and storage
in the aquifer
Reclaimed water can be mixed with groundwater resources, increasing its quality and
the acceptance for reuse of reclaimed water
Groundwater recharge can also preserve water levels in wetlands and mitigate
saltwater or contaminant intrusion
Some steps traditionally applied for wastewater treatment such as the removal of
organic material, nitrogen and phosphorus may not be necessary when applying SAT
(JIMENEZ 2008)

Disadvantages
If reclaimed water is used but not sufficiently pre-treated, discharge of nutrients and
micro pollutants may affect natural water bodies and/or drinking water
Introducing pollutants into groundwater aquifers may have long-term negative impacts
Can change the soil and groundwater hydrological properties
Surface soil aquifer treatment requires a big area for the infiltration basin which adds
to the cost of the project
http://www.sswm.info/content/soil-aquifer-treatment

Groundwater depletion
Groundwater is a valuable resource both in the United States and throughout
the world. Where surface water, such as lakes and rivers, are scarce or
inaccessible, groundwater supplies many of the hydrologic needs of people
everywhere. In the United States, it is the source of drinking water for about
half the total population and nearly all of the rural population, and it
provides over 50 billion gallons per day for agricultural needs. Groundwater
depletion, a term often defined as long-term water-level declines caused by
sustained groundwater pumping, is a key issue associated with groundwater
use. Many areas of the United States are experiencing groundwater
depletion.

Excessive pumping can overdraw the groundwater "bank account"

The water stored in the ground can be compared to money kept in a bank
account. If you withdraw money at a faster rate than you deposit new
money you will eventually start having account-supply problems. Pumping
water out of the ground faster than it is replenished over the long-term
causes similar problems. The volume of groundwater in storage is decreasing
in many areas of the United States in response to pumping. Groundwater
depletion is primarily caused by sustained groundwater pumping. Some of
the negative effects of groundwater depletion:

drying up of wells

reduction of water in streams and lakes

deterioration of water quality

increased pumping costs

land subsidence

What are some effects of groundwater depletion?


Pumping groundwater at a faster rate than it can be recharged can have
some negative effects of the environment and the people who make use of
the water:

Lowering of the water table


The most severe consequence of excessive groundwater pumping is that
the water table, below which the ground is saturated with water, can be
lowered. For water to be withdrawn from the ground, water must be pumped
from a well that reaches below the water table. If groundwater levels decline
too far, then the well owner might have to deepen the well, drill a new well,
or, at least, attempt to lower the pump. Also, as water levels decline, the
rate of water the well can yield may decline.

Increased costs for the user


As the depth to water increases, the water must be lifted higher to reach the
land surface. If pumps are used to lift the water (as opposed
to artesian wells), more energy is required to drive the pump. Using the well
can become prohibitively expensive.

Reduction of water in streams and lakes


There is more of an interaction between the water in lakes and rivers and
groundwater than most people think. Some, and often a great deal, of the
water flowing in rivers comes from seepage of groundwater into the
streambed. Groundwater contributes to streams in most physiographic and
climatic settings. The proportion of stream water that comes from
groundwater inflow varies according to a region's geography, geology, and
climate.

Groundwater pumping can alter how water moves between an aquifer and a
stream, lake, or wetland by either intercepting groundwater flow that
discharges into the surface-water body under natural conditions, or by
increasing the rate of water movement from the surface-water body into an
aquifer. A related effect of groundwater pumping is the lowering of
groundwater levels below the depth that streamside or wetland vegetation
needs to survive. The overall effect is a loss of riparian vegetation and
wildlife habitat.

Land subsidence
The basic cause of land subsidence is a loss of support below ground. In
other words, sometimes when water is taken out of the soil, the soil
collapses, compacts, and drops. This depends on a number of factors, such
as the type of soil and rock below the surface. Land subsidence is most often
caused by human activities, mainly from the removal of subsurface water.

Deterioration of water quality


One water-quality threat to fresh groundwater supplies is contamination
from saltwater intrusion. All of the water in the ground is not fresh water;
much of the very deep groundwater and water below oceans is saline. In
fact, an estimated 3.1 million cubic miles (12.9 cubic kilometers) of saline
groundwater exists compared to about 2.6 million cubic miles (10.5 million
cubic kilometers) of fresh groundwater (Gleick, P. H., 1996: Water resources. In
Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather, ed. by S. H. Schneider, Oxford University
Press, New York, vol. 2, pp. 817-823). Under natural conditions the boundary
between the freshwater and saltwater tends to be relatively stable, but
pumping can cause saltwater to migrate inland and upward, resulting in
saltwater contamination of the water supply.

http://water.usgs.gov/edu/gwdepletion.html