Aquifers are typically made up of gravel, sand, sandstone, or fractured rock, like limestone. Water can move through these materials because they have large connected spaces that make them permeable. The speed at which groundwater flows depends on the size of the spaces in the soil or rock and how well the spaces are connected.
Groundwater can be found almost everywhere. The water table may be deep or shallow; and may rise or fall depending on many factors. Heavy rains or melting snow may cause the water table to rise, or heavy pumping of groundwater supplies may cause the water table to fall. Groundwater supplies are replenished, or recharged, by rain and snow melt that seeps down into the cracks and crevices beneath the land's surface.
Sand and Gravel Aquifers
The most widespread and most exploited aquifer systems are the sand and gravel aquifers. These sediments find their origin in the erosion of rocks.
Sandstone is the conslidated version of a sandy deposit
Karst is a type of landscape, and also an aquifer type. Karst areas consist of solid but chemically soluble rock such as limestone (most important) and dolomite, but also gypsum, anhydrite and several other soluble rocks.
Basaltic and Volcanic Aquifers are formed by volcanic activity at the earths surface. Volcanic rocks have a wide range of chemical, mineralogic, structural, and hydraulic properties, due mostly to variations in rock type and the way the rock was ejected and deposited.
The so-called basement or crystalline basement, consisting of igneous and metamophic rocks, underlies the sedimentary and volcanic rock sequences on all continents.
In some areas of the world, people face serious water shortages because groundwater is used faster than it is naturally replenished. In other areas groundwater is polluted by human activities. Water in aquifers is brought to the surface naturally through a spring or can be discharged into lakes and streams. Groundwater can also be extracted through a well drilled into the aquifer. A well is a pipe in the ground that fills with groundwater. This water can be brought to the surface by a pump. Shallow wells may go dry if the water table falls below the bottom of the well. Some wells, called artesian wells, do not need a pump because of natural pressures that force the water up and out of the well.
In areas where material above the aquifer is permeable, pollutants can readily sink into groundwater supplies. Groundwater can be polluted by landfills, septic tanks, leaky underground gas tanks, and from overuse of fertilizers and pesticides. If groundwater becomes polluted, it will no longer be safe to drink.