- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 01 Mar 2018
Groundwater is an important part of the water cycle which continually moves water through the environment. Water evaporates from the oceans and condenses into clouds, before falling onto land as rain and flowing into rivers and back into the oceans.
However, the ground has the potential to interrupt this cycle, absorbing rainwater like a sponge. Some of this water will return to the atmosphere through processes such as transpiration, while some will infiltrate deeper into the ground where it becomes groundwater.
The water table is the level at which the ground becomes saturated and water will flow to a point of discharge such as a spring, lake, river or sea. Groundwater plays a vital role in supporting industry, wells, wetlands, stream flows, and so on. The water table may rise during periods of heavy rain or melting snow, or fall during drier periods, or as a result of extraction.
In some parts of the world, water shortages can be experienced when groundwater supplies are used faster than they are replenished, while in other regions, groundwater can cause flooding or can become polluted by human activities such as industry and agriculture.
Nearly 30% of global freshwater originates from groundwater, and almost all the water used for agriculture, industry and drinking will have been groundwater at some point in its cycle.
Some geological formations are impermeable to groundwater whilst others are permeable. Permeable formations – known as aquifers – have fine holes or networks of fine cracks that allow water to flow through them. The size of the spaces in the soil or rock, as well as how well they are connected, determines the speed of groundwater flow.
In the UK, hydrogeologists are work to ensure groundwater is maintained in sufficient supply with a quality that is protected. In developing countries, hydrogeologists may work on rural water supply projects to help provide safe and accessible water.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Dam construction.
- Groundwater control in urban areas.
- Fertilizer groundwater pollution.
- Pumps and dewatering equipment.
- Reservoir construction.
- River engineering.
- Sewer construction.
- Sustainable water.
- Types of water.
- Water engineering.
- Water table.
 External resources
Featured articles and news
There are many ways of classifying types of building. Have a look at our range of building articles.
BSRIA have launched the 'major update' of the go-to design framework guide for building services.
How to get results with building life cycle assessment.
Government publishes a prospectus inviting proposals for new 'garden communities'.
The Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa collapses during rainstorm while undergoing maintenance works.
'Developed design' is a phrase coined by the RIBA for their 2013 Plan of Work. But what does it actually mean?
New green paper published aiming to rebalance the relationship between landlords and residents and tackle stigma.
RIBA calls for a comprehensive ban on combustible materials.
Lump sum contracts can be referred to as ‘fixed price’ contracts, although strictly this is not correct. Find out more here.
Ramboll offer guidance to civil engineers on how to make projects 'off-site ready'.
Government announces its Rough Sleeping Strategy, with further funding for social housing.