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Water Quality Program - College of the Environment and Life Sciences

An introduction to groundwater movement

The water cycle moves water through the environment. As water falls to the ground as rain or snow – it can run off into streams, lakes, rivers or bays. Water will evaporate from surface water. Water that evaporates, can later condense (called condensation), forming clouds that can cause rain or snow.



Groundwater and surface water are interconnected. When the water table rises above the ground, the groundwater discharges to the surface and becomes surface water. Also, when the water table drops, surface water can recharge the groundwater.



An aquifer is an area of underground soil or rock that is filled with water. An aquifer can supply water to a drinking water well. Throughout New England there are two types of aquifers used to supply drinking water. These two types of aquifers are sand and gravel aquifers and bedrock aquifers.



The water table is the top of the groundwater. It is the boundary between the saturated zone below the water table and the unsaturated zone above the water table. The water table rises and falls according to the time of year and how much rain or snow we get.


Groundwater is recharged from precipitation – either rain or snow melt -that seeps into the ground.



A drinking well is a circular hole that extends into the ground until it reaches the groundwater. Wells pump groundwater into our homes. Three basic well types are common throughout New England: dug, driven and drilled wells.



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