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Project Watershed Central New York

Dedicated to facilitating water resource education in Central New York

Water Table

The water table is the upper limit of abundant groundwater. Above the water table the interstices between particles of earth are filled by air, or by air and water. Below it, every available space is saturated with water. A large amount of water within a body of sand or rock below the water table is called an aquifer. A so-called "perched aquifer" (or perched water table) occurs when the descent of water percolating from above is blocked by a shelf of impermeable rock.

The water table roughly follows the contour of the overlying land surface, and rises and falls with rainy or dry weather. Springs and oases occur when the water table reaches the surface. Springs commonly form on hillsides, where the earth's slanting surface may "intersect" with the water table. Other, unseen springs are found under rivers and lakes, and account for the sometimes surprisingly well-preserved water levels which occur in times of mild drought.

The practice of drilling wells to extract groundwater is dependent on understanding the water table. Because wells must reach the water table, its depth determines the minimum depth of a viable well, and thus the feasibility of drilling it.

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