How does groundwater move?
How quickly does it move?
This depends on the
For more information about how aquifer material can affect how quickly (or slowly) groundwater moves, visit our What is groundwater yield page.
Groundwater moves as part of local, intermediate or regional flow systems. Local flow systems are short and groundwater moves through them quick quickly. Regional flows systems are very long and groundwater can take decades, hundreds or thousands of years to move from recharge point to discharge point.
Aquifers with different flow systems react different to changes. To find out more visit our How do different aquifers respond to change page.
Characteristics of local, intermediate and regional flow systems
|How long are they?||Where are they found?||How long does it take water to flow through them?||How quickly do they respond to change?|
|Local flow system||< 5km||Mainly shallow, unconfined aquifers||Weeks to years||
(weeks or months)
|Intermediate flow system||5 – 30km||Mainly confined middle and lower aquifers||Months to years||
(months or years)
|Regional flow system||>30km||Mainly confined middle and lower aquifers||Decades to thousands of years||
(impact may not be seen in a lifetime)
This table shows the different characteristics of each flow system.