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Groundwater, defined as the water from rain or other precipitation that soaks into the ground and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in soils and rocks, is an essential resource of great social, environmental and economic importance.    It accounts for 97% of the world’s freshwater and serves as the base flow for all streams, springs, and rivers.  The aquifer systems of South Africa represent important water resources that are relied on by many. Water users include the ecology (wetland areas around springs and surface water flow originating from the groundwater), urban and rural dwellers, irrigation and livestock farmers, industry and mining.


Traditionally water resources management has been practised with a surface water focus and limited groundwater understanding and this has not changed significantly since the introduction of IWRM.  Overcoming this major (world-wide) hurdle to the sustainable utilization of a crucial part of water resources is seen as a global challenge. In Groundwater systems form an integral part of the hydrological cycle and should be managed as such. They do, however, have unique characteristics which have a strong bearing on their sustainable utilization and are still little understood by decision-makers.


In this version of the Groundwater Dictionary, we have attempted to erase the ignorance that existed in the early years of groundwater science by presenting the most current knowledge on the subject as provided by authors, some of which are documented under the Reference Section.