Water Table

The water table is the level at which the groundwater pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure. It may be conveniently visualized as the 'surface' of the groundwater in a given vicinity. It usually coincides with the phreatic surface, but can be many feet above it. As water infiltrates through pore spaces in the soil, it first passes through the zone of aeration, where the soil is unsaturated. At increasing depths water fills in more spaces, until the zone of saturation is reached.

The form of a water table may change and vary due to seasonal changes, topography and structural geology. In undeveloped regions, or areas with high amounts of precipitation, the water table roughly follows the contour of the overlying land surface, and rises and falls with increases or decreases in infiltration. 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 base-flow water levels in water bodies.



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