Groundwater services allow people to use, analyze, transport, and treat groundwater—water that is underground. It is in the pores between soil particles and in the cracks, crevices, and caverns of rocky formations. The various types of groundwater services include those offered by consulting firms that do scientific and engineering studies and contractors who drill wells and install pumps and other groundwater equipment.
An aquifer is a large body of underground sediment or rock that is saturated with groundwater, which humans use for drinking and for agricultural and industrial purposes. There are thousands of aquifers around the world, some of which lie just below the ground surface while others are thousands of feet (hundreds of meters) below the surface. As the demand for water is always increasing, many groundwater services are devoted to finding aquifers that will yield good-quality groundwater and pumping the groundwater to the surface through wells.
Hydrogeology is the scientific study of how groundwater accumulates and moves beneath the earth. Hydrogeologists use measured data, mathematical equations, and computer models to calculate aquifer properties, such as groundwater amounts, flows and directions. This information helps scientists and engineers pick locations for wells and more accurately predict how much water the wells will be able to supply.
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Aquifer characterization is a groundwater service that combines aspects of hydrogeology and well pump testing. Companies drill test wells and conduct pumping tests in order to characterize aquifer properties and analyze the groundwater for chemical properties. They also determine how deep wells should be drilled and the best locations for the wells.
Some groundwater services deal specifically with groundwater quality. Groundwater can be naturally unfit for use due to high salt content. This occurs in coastal areas and in some geological formations. Groundwater also can become contaminated by pollutants. The contaminants may seep into the groundwater from above ground or be introduced by leaking pipes or tanks that are underground.
Groundwater sampling and monitoring also are common groundwater services. Sampling is conducted by installing special test wells or by using existing groundwater supply wells. Samples are collected and sent to a laboratory to determine the chemical and mineral make-up of the water. Groundwater monitoring entails taking samples from specific wells over a certain time period to determine how groundwater quality changes over time.
Another service called groundwater remediation involves the cleaning of contaminated groundwater. It often requires pumping groundwater to the surface and running it through treatment systems to remove the contaminants. The treated water may be pumped back into the ground, discharged to surface water bodies, or used for some other purpose.
Groundwater modeling is a service that involves using software to model groundwater flows and behavior. Models can predict if and how groundwater contaminants will change as the water comes into contact with rocks and sediments of various mineral compositions. This is called chemical fate and transport analysis. Computer models can also predict how well pumping will drawdown the groundwater amounts in an aquifer over time.
Dewatering is the process of removing groundwater that flows into depressions or holes dug into the ground. Construction and mining companies often create large depressions as part of their normal operations, and they typically want the depressions to stay dry. Dewatering services use pumps and other equipment to dewater the depressions and direct the water away from the area.