How does an aquifier work?


Quick Answer

Moving water that flows through the porous rock of an aquifer is filtered by the tiny pore spaces in the rock. The pore size determines the size of the particulate matter that flows through; smaller pore sizes are helpful for filtering bacteria and other solid matter. Clay particles and other minerals slow down or stop dissolved substances so they don't travel with the water, providing another layer of filtration.

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Full Answer

If the porous rock is fractured, the pore sizes become too large, allowing bacteria and other particles through. Despite an aquifer's natural filtration, the concentration of certain minerals can be high when the porous rock itself contributes the mineral. In some cases, such as with iron, this poses no health threat while in others, such as with minerals like uranium, the health risk is high. The rate of the water flowing through an aquifer depends on the permeability of the rock; the ground water has to squeeze through the pore spaces of the rock in order to move. Some aquifers move water at a rate of 50 feet per year, while others flow at a rate of 50 inches per century. No matter how fast or slow the water moves though an aquifer, it will eventually have to be replaced; thus all aquifers have recharge zones where new water can flow in.

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