Basic ground-water hydrology

U.S. Geological Survey, Water Supply Paper 2220

by Ralph C. Heath

This report is available at:


Ground water is one of the Nation's most valuable natural resources . It is the source of about 40 percent of the water used for all purposes exclusive of hydropower generation and electric powerplant cooling.

Surprisingly, for a resource that is so widely used and so important to the health and to the economy of the country, the occurrence of ground water is not only poorly understood but is also, in fact, the subject of many widespread misconceptions . Common misconceptions include the belief that ground water occurs in underground rivers resembling surface streams whose presence can be detected by certain individuals . These misconceptions and others have hampered the development and conservation of ground water and have adversely affected the protection of its quality.

In order for the Nation to receive maximum benefit from its ground-water resource, it is essential that everyone, from the rural homeowner to managers of industrial and municipal water supplies to heads of Federal and State water-regulatory agencies, become more knowledgeable about the occurrence, development, and protection of ground water. This report has been prepared to help meet the needs of these groups, as well as the needs of hydrologists, well drillers, and others engaged in the study and development of ground-water supplies . It consists of 45 sections on the basic elements of ground-water hydrology, arranged in order from the most basic aspects of the subject through a discussion of the methods used to determine the yield of aquifers to a discussion of common problems encountered in the operation of ground-water supplies.

Each section consists of a brief text and one or more drawings or maps that illustrate the main points covered in the text . Because the text is, in effect, an expanded discussion of the illustrations, most of the illustrations are not captioned . However, where more than one drawing is included in a section, each drawing is assigned a number, given in parentheses, and these numbers are inserted at places in the text where the reader should refer to the drawing.

In accordance with U .S . Geological Survey policy to encourage the use of metric units, these units are used in most sections . In the sections dealing with the analysis of aquifer (pumping) test data, equations are given in both consistent units and in the inconsistent inch pound units still in relatively common use among ground-water hydrologists and well drillers. As an aid to those who are not familiar with metric units and with the conversion of groundwater hydraulic units from inch-pound units to metric units, conversion tables are given on the inside back cover.

Definitions of ground-water terms are given where the terms are first introduced . Because some of these terms will be new to many readers, abbreviated definitions are also given on the inside front cover for convenient reference by those who wish to review the definitions from time to time as they read the text. Finally, for those who need to review some of the simple mathematical operations that are used in ground-water hydrology, a section on numbers, equations, and conversions is included at the end of the text .

Table of Contents

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Persistent URL:
Page Contact Information: Publishing Service Center
Last modified: Thursday, September 01 2005, 02:26:55 PM
FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button