Groundwater FAQs

Groundwater is a body of water that occurs naturally beneath the surface of the earth. It feeds into all other natural bodies of water such as rivers and lakes and makes up approximately 20% of the freshwater reserves in the world. Today we’ll be addressing some of the more frequent queries that are asked of our Melbourne groundwater assessment team.

Is groundwater important?

There are some parts of Australia – such as Western Australia and Northern Territory – where groundwater is heavily relied on for both consumption and agricultural purposes. As some areas’ supplies of surface water may be lacking, groundwater is considered to be very important as it essentially fills the gaps left by the potential lack of surface water. 

The environment also relies quite heavily on groundwater to support its natural ecosystem. Flora and fauna, for example, rely crucially on groundwater as it is their only source of water – without which they would not survive.

Can groundwater be contaminated?

Yes. Groundwater contamination is a very real and very serious issue that can affect our fresh groundwater supplies. Groundwater can become contaminated via surface runoff (nonpoint-source pollution) or by directly being affected by a substance or chemical such as from a disposal site (point-source contamination).

There are a variety of different types of pollutants that can affect groundwater, and each has its own effects and varying degrees of severity. Some of the pollutants include fluoride, arsenic, nitrate, industrial products or waste and airborne pathogens. The majority of these types of pollutants will result in serious health risks – sometimes even causing death if the pollutant level is high enough. 

Contaminated groundwater will also have environmental repercussions, with the contaminated water affecting the eco-system as well as humans. Animals may also suffer if they drink contaminated groundwater. This is one of the reasons why Melbourne groundwater assessment is such a crucial process.

What’s the difference between groundwater and surface water?

The difference between these two natural bodies of water is quite simple. Whilst groundwater runs below the surface of the ground – filling the pores between layers of soils and the fractures within rock formations – surface water is found above the ground. Lakes and rivers are both examples of surface water. 

Surface water has a higher chance of being contaminated because it is exposed to more elements such as animal waste, pesticides, insecticides and industrial waste. Groundwater is less likely to be contaminated as the rocks act partially as a filter to runoff contaminants and pollutants. As mentioned earlier, groundwater eventually leads to bodies of surface water – replenishing them.

How is groundwater accessed if it’s below the Earth?

Bores are constructed to access groundwater. However, you’ll need to get a construction license under the Water Act 1989 to be able to construct a groundwater bore. Already constructed bores can be accessed for research purposes with a groundwater license.

Can I use my local groundwater supply?

You should always prioritise your mains water supply before considering any other supply of water. Drinking untreated groundwater can lead to illness due to microorganisms that would otherwise be removed via treatments. Groundwater should only be consumed if it is appropriately treated. If you’re inclined to use your local groundwater supply, then you should contact your local water agency to learn about the quality of the supply and if it is appropriate to use it for anything. 

It’s important to note that there are different types of treatments that are applied to groundwater and they all remove different things – so just because one form of treatment has been applied, doesn’t mean it’s suddenly fit to be consumed or used in the garden, for example.

How is groundwater replenished?

Groundwater is predominantly replenished by rainfall. Every drop penetrates the pores in the soil and ends up in the groundwater supply below.

What are aquifers?

An aquifer is a rock that natural transmits any water that it collects into groundwater streams. Water can actually be pumped out of aquifers if wells are drilled into them.

Do you need a groundwater assessment in Melbourne?

Alpha Environmental are Melbourne groundwater assessment specialists that have had years of experience in the field. Our passionate consultants will be able to help you determine if your groundwater is contaminated or not and help you to understand the process of it as well. We also offer a variety of other environmental services such as asbestos testing and phase I, II and III environmental site assessments

If you would like to get in touch with us to discuss groundwater assessment in Melbourne, then please give us a call on 1300 039 181 or fill out the enquiry form on our website.