aqui·​fer ˈa-kwə-fər How to pronounce aquifer (audio)
: a water-bearing stratum of permeable rock, sand, or gravel
aquiferous adjective

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Aquifer and Agriculture

The vast but relatively shallow Ogallala Aquifer lies beneath the Great Plains, under portions of eight states. Its thickness ranges from a few feet to more than a thousand feet. The Ogallala yields about 30 percent of the nation's groundwater used for irrigation in agriculture, and provides drinking water for most of the people within the area. But for many years more water has been extracted from the Ogallala than has been returned, and the situation today is of great concern.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web But Coachella Valley Water District staff told the Desert Sun’s Erin Rode that cutting back on aquifer replenishment gives them more control over conservation than asking farmers to use less. Sammy Rothstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2022 The most dangerous aspect of draining the pipelines is the potential for fuel to spill and enter the aquifer, Wade told reporters as a news conference. Audrey Mcavoy, USA TODAY, 26 Oct. 2022 The advanced treatment plant also adjusts things like acidity and dissolved oxygen levels so the water is appropriate for the aquifer. Elena Shao, New York Times, 20 Oct. 2022 But this Welsh gin brand is taking this concept to another level by barrel aging its spirits in a cave and using the water from the underground aquifer to define its very character. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 9 Nov. 2022 This would ultimately require that the total amount of pumping in each basin not exceed the amount of rainwater and other water sources replenishing the aquifer. Jake Frederico, The Arizona Republic, 7 Nov. 2022 His organization, the Salt Flats Racing Association, is convinced the potash mining company that extracts minerals from the flats is the primary reason that the aquifer is being depleted. The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Nov. 2022 The farm relies on groundwater brought up from wells on the property, and Nasrallah says the suburbs are draining the aquifer. Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, 27 Oct. 2022 The most dangerous aspect of draining the pipelines is the potential for fuel to spill and enter the aquifer, Wade told reporters as a news conference. Audrey Mcavoy, USA TODAY, 26 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'aquifer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from French aquifère "water-bearing," from aqui- (from Latin aqua "water" + -i- -i-) + -fère "bearing" — more at aqua, -fer

Note: The term was introduced into English by the geologist William Harmon Norton (1856-1944) in "Artesian Wells of Iowa," Iowa Geological Survey, vol. 6, Report on Lead, Zinc, Artesian Wells, etc. (Des Moines, 1897), p. 130: "The sand represents the permeable water-bearing layer, the aquifer, to revive a term of Arago's, and its outcrop between the basin rims the area of supply." "Arago" is the French physicist François Arago (1786-1853), whose essay "Sur les puits forés, connus sous le nom de puits artésiens, des fontaines artésiennes, ou de fontaines jaillissants" (Bureau des Longitudes, Annuaire pour l'an 1835 [Paris, 1834], pp. 181-258), is cited earlier in Norton's paper. As noted by Alfred Clebsch ("Analysis and Critique of 'Aquifers, Ground-Water Bodies, and Hydrophers' by C.V. Theis," Selected Contributions to Ground-Water Hydrology by C.V. Theis, and a Review of His Life and Work [U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2415] [Denver, 1994], pp. 39-43), Norton is not strictly speaking "reviving" anything used by Arago, who only uses aquifère as an adjective in the collocations nappe aquifère and couche aquifère (both meaning approximately "water-bearing layer"). Note that in an English translation of Arago's article ("On Springs, Artesian Wells, and Spouting Fountains," Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, vol. 18, no. 36 [April, 1835]) there is no direct equivalent of aquifère, as couches aquifères is rendered by "water bearing beds" and nappe aquifère as simply "water."

First Known Use

1897, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aquifer was in 1897

Dictionary Entries Near aquifer

Cite this Entry

“Aquifer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



aqui·​fer ˈak-wə-fər How to pronounce aquifer (audio)
: a water-bearing layer of rock, sand, or gravel capable of absorbing water
aquiferous adjective

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