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A subsurface zone that yields economically important amounts of water to wells. The term is synonymous with water-bearing formation. An aquifer may be porous rock, unconsolidated gravel, fractured rock, or cavernous limestone.

Aquifers are important reservoirs storing large amounts of water relatively free from evaporation loss or pollution. If the annual withdrawal from an aquifer regularly exceeds the replenishment from rainfall or seepage from streams, the water stored in the aquifer will be depleted. This mining of groundwater results in increased pumping costs and sometimes pollution from sea water or adjacent saline aquifers. Lowering the piezometric pressure in an unconsolidated artesian aquifer by overpumping may cause the aquifer and confining layers of silt or clay to be compressed under the weight of the overlying material. The resulting subsidence of the ground surface may cause structural damage to buildings, altered drainage paths, increased flooding, damage to wells, and other problems. Artesian systems

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From McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. The Content is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. The Work is © 2008 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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