What is Groundwater? - Definition & Explanation

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Groundwater: Definition & Conservation

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 What Is Groundwater?
  • 0:52 Porosity & Permeability
  • 2:06 Aquifer
  • 2:33 Issues with Groundwater
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeff Fennell

Jeff has a master's in engineering and has taught Earth science both domestically and internationally.

Groundwater accounts for up to 20% of all the fresh water on Earth. This lesson will explain what ground water is and its important aspects. Once you've finished the lesson, test your understanding with a quiz.

What Is Groundwater?

The simplest definition of groundwater is that it is water that is underground. Of all the fresh water on Earth, about 20% is groundwater. As water seeps into the ground, it continues downward due to gravity until the surrounding ground is saturated with water.

As it moves, water takes up the available spaces between particles underground and moves in the direction of least pressure. When you have groundwater, you have a water table, which is the line where saturated and unsaturated layers meet. If you know how a well works, you may know about water tables because in order for a well to be able to pump water, it must be as deep as the water table.

Now, let's talk about some other factors related to groundwater.

Porosity and Permeability

The ability for the ground to hold water depends on two main factors, porosity and permeability.

Porosity is the amount of free space within a material. In the case of groundwater, that material is the ground. Imagine pouring water onto sand at the beach. It will sink right in and that's because sand has high porosity. Lots of free space inside it to hold the water. On the other hand, if you pour water onto a sidewalk, it will stay there until it evaporates away. That's because cement has very low porosity. It's very tightly packed together and can't hold water.

The other factor is permeability. Permeability is how connected the free spaces in a material are. This helps determine if the water can move or transfer through the ground or other material. For example, a cloth is highly permeable; the free spaces are tightly connected and so water is able to pass through the cloth via the network of connected free spaces. On the other hand, a plastic bag is not permeable. The free spaces are not well connected, and so water cannot pass through the plastic.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account