The USGS Water Science School
Groundwater flow and effects of pumping
Water is recharged to the groundwater system by percolation of water from precipitation and then flows to the stream through the groundwater system.
Water pumped from the groundwater system causes the water table to lower and alters the direction of groundwater movement. Some water that flowed to the stream no longer does so and some water may be drawn in from the stream into the groundwater system, thereby reducing the amount of streamflow.
Contaminants introduced at the land surface may infiltrate to the water table and flow towards a point of discharge, either the well or the stream. (Not shown, but also important, is the potential movement of contaminants from the stream into the groundwater system.)
Water-level declines may affect the environment for plants and animals. For example, plants in the riparian zone that grew because of the close proximity of the water table to the land surface may not survive as the depth to water increases. The environment for fish and other aquatic species also may be altered as the stream level drops.