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What is an Aquifer? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Aquifers are hidden under the ground, so you might be surprised to learn that you depend on them every day. Learn about the role aquifers play in supplying you with water for drinking, playing and washing.

What is an Aquifer

Did you know that some rocks hold water? In fact, there's a good chance that some of these water-soaked rocks are in the ground beneath your feet! A collection of wet, underground rocks that allow water to pass through them slowly is called an aquifer. Aquifers are important because they are the main way people get clean, useable water.

What Do Aquifers Look Like?

Since an aquifer is underground water, you might picture it looking like an underground river or a water balloon, but that wouldn't be quite right. An aquifer is more like a sponge than a river or balloon. Underground water fills small holes and cracks within the rocks, sand, and stones that make up the aquifer. These small openings provide spaces for the water to slowly move through, much like a sponge allows water to pass through it.

Aquifers are underground.
aquifer

For an aquifer to form, the rocks and materials in the ground must be permeable. If something is permeable, it means that water can move through it. Therefore, aquifers are often made up of permeable rocks, like sandstone, or loose materials, like sand and gravel. An aquifer can be made up of more dense or thick rocks as long as those rocks have cracks or channels through them where water can pass.

The Ogallala Aquifer lies under eight states.
Ogallala

You can't see aquifers because they are below the ground and their boundaries are not well defined. But some aquifers can be huge, spanning across a number of states, like the Ogallala Aquifer that lies under parts of eight Midwestern U.S. states!

Purpose

The main purpose of an aquifer is to supply clean drinking water. This is done by drilling into the aquifer and installing a well. A well is a hole in the ground from which water can be drawn. You might want to think of a well as a straw that sucks groundwater up to the surface. Water from aquifers is also used to water farmer's fields and provide water for homes and businesses.

Aquifers not only supply water, but they also act as a filter to clean water. Did you ever watch your parents make coffee? The coffee grounds aren't dropped into the water; instead, they are placed inside a filter. When water runs through the filter, drinkable coffee comes out, while the grounds stay trapped in the filter. An aquifer works the same way. Dirty water that contains particles, like debris and bacteria, enters the open spaces of the aquifer. These small spaces allow the water to pass through but trap the other things.

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