This is a layer of rock or other material in soil or rock that allows water to percolate through it, sometimes very slowly and sometimes for long distances.

Aquifers supply wells, springs and soaks and artesian basins - vast underground stores of water.

If an aquifer gets polluted it may contaminate wells and springs a long way from where the pollution happened and in a wide area.

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A confined aquifer is one that is overlaid by soil or rock that is not particularly porous to water.

An unconfined aquifer comes to ground level at some point.

Aquifers are one of the mechanisms of transfer of salinity from one (usually higher) part of the country to another part.

The soil in some areas has high levels of salt. When rain falls on that higher land and soaks in, it can pick up that salt, carrying it into the aquifer and then emerging as salty water perhaps hundreds of kilometres or miles away.

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This page was updated on December 27, 2007