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Groundwater. Main topics: Location of groundwater Storage of groundwater Movement of Groundwater Groundwater erosion and deposition Groundwater systems and protection. The hydrosphere. Water located on and inside the Earth’s crust make up the hydrosphere .

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Main topics:

  • Location of groundwater
  • Storage of groundwater
  • Movement of Groundwater
  • Groundwater erosion and deposition
  • Groundwater systems and protection
the hydrosphere
The hydrosphere
  • Water located on and inside the Earth’s crust make up the hydrosphere.
  • 97% of the water in the hydrosphere is contained in the oceans. (salt water)

3% is contained by landmasses

  • Most of the fresh water is located in polar ice caps or glaciers. (2.15%)
  • Groundwater represents the next largest block of all the freshwater. (0.31%)
  • Lakes, streams, rivers and wetland represent the rest of the freshwater on Earth (0.0091%)
source of groundwater
Source of Groundwater
  • Ultimate source of all water is the water cycle.
  • Precipitation that falls on land can either runoff or infiltrate (most will infiltrate).
  • The process of water seeping into the ground and becoming ground water is called infiltration.
  • Infiltration will also be known as groundwater recharge.
groundwater storage
Groundwater Storage
  • Groundwater is located in the spaces between soil particles and rock.
  • These open spaces betweens materials is called pore space.
  • The percentage of pore space in a material is called porosity.
groundwater storage1
Groundwater Storage
  • Well sorted material will have similar porosity, despite grain size.
  • Large grained material will have larger pore size, but contain fewer pores…while smaller grained material will have smaller pores but many more pores! (lab results?)
  • Poorly sorted material usually has low porosity.
location of groundwater
Location of Groundwater
  • Soil moisture zone – the area of soil directly at the surface that is moist due to vegetation.
  • Zone of aeration – the area between the soil moisture zone and water table, pores are mostly filled with air. (vadose zone, unsaturated zone.)
  • Zone of saturation – the location below the water table where all pores are filled with water.
  • Water table – the boundary between the zone of aeration and zone of saturation.
movement of groundwater
Movement of groundwater
  • Groundwater will move similar to water on the surface…downhill and from areas of high pressure to areas of lower pressure.
  • Groundwater movement is controlled by permeability.
  • Permeability is the ability of a material to allow water to pass through it. (transmit water)
  • Permeability can also be referred to as how well the pores are connected.
  • Coarse grained material usually has high permeability such as sand and gravel.
  • Fine grained material usually has lowpermeability such as clay.
  • What type of material would make a good aquifer?


  • What type of material would make a good protective liner for a capped landfill?


flow of groundwater
Flow of Groundwater
  • Darcy’s Law helps us determine how well water will flow in the ground.

Q = K (dh/dl)

Q = discharge velocity (m/s)

K = hydraulic conductivity (how well material transmits water) (m/s)

dh/dl = hydraulic gradient (slope of water table)

(dh is change in rise and dl is change in run)

flow of groundwater1
Flow of Groundwater

Using Darcy’s Law: Q = K (dh/dl)

Example: fine sand (K=6m/day) vs. gravel (K=140m/day)

65 m

40 m

150 m

groundwater erosion
Groundwater Erosion
  • Dissolution – carbonic acid in groundwater dissolves limestone (calcium carbonate).

CO2 + H2O H2CO3

carbon dioxide + water carbonic acid

H2CO3 H+ + HCO3-

carbonic acid hydrogen ions + bicarbonate ions

CaCO3 + H+ Ca2+ + HCO3-

calcium carbonate + hydrogen ions calcium ions + bicarbonate ions

groundwater erosion1
Groundwater Erosion
  • Karst topography – areas of limestone that have sinkholes, caves, and sinking streams due to dissolution of limestone.
  • Sinkholes – an area of land that falls inward into the Earth due to supporting limestone bedrock being eroded away.
groundwater deposition
Groundwater Deposition
  • Stalactites – deposits on the TOP of cave.
  • Stalagmites – deposits on the bottom of cave.
  • Hardwater – deposits left behind in tap water. (calcium)
groundwater systems
Groundwater Systems
  • Emergence of Springs – when the land surface intersects the water table.

- water will leak or seep out on to the surface.

groundwater systems1
Groundwater Systems
  • Well – vertical hole dug into the ground, into the zone of saturation.
  • Drawdown – sinking of the water table due to water being pumped out of a well.
  • Recharge – new water entering into a groundwater system.
groundwater systems2
Groundwater Systems
  • Artesian wells – water that is forced to the surface because of a confined aquifer, hydrostatic pressure provides force for the water.

H:\ES_class\Unit 3 - Surface process\18.swf

threats to groundwater supply
Threats to Groundwater Supply
  • Overuse – too much water being pumped from a well…discharge is greater than recharge.
  • Subsidence – sinking of the land surface because of too much water being pumped from the ground.
  • Groundwater pollution (chemicals, salt, radon) – water can carry dissolved pollutants.