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Groundwater is water that exists underground in the spaces between grains of sand or gravel or in the cracks and fractures in solid rock.

More than 50 percent of the people in the United States, including almost everyone who lives in rural areas, use ground water for drinking and other household uses. Ground water is also used in some way by about 75 percent of cities and by many factories. The largest use of ground water is to irrigate crops.

Groundwater is also an important part of the global water cycle, and a sizeable portion of it eventually finds its way to the ocean. On its way, groundwater dissolves minerals, nutrients, and pollutants, carrying them along for the ride. Scientists study groundwater to understand the composition of materials underground and the nature of chemical reactions that occur there.

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News Releases

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From Oceanus Magazine

Back to Bikini

WHOI scientists returned to the Pacific islands of Bikini and Enewetak in 2015 to study radioactive contamination nearly 70 years after the U.S. used the islands for nuclear weapons testing. What they learned could also be applied to a more recent nuclear disaster: the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in Japan.

Underneath and Overlooked: Groundwater

Matt Charette has been pulling off the sheetrock in Earth’s basement to reveal a hidden plumbing system that pumps water…

Tracking an Elusive Chemical: Estrogens

On a crisp October morning, our small boat bobbed gently 10 miles offshore. The sun glinted off the dark blue…

‘Seasonal Pump’ Moves Water Between Ocean and Aquifers

Hydrologists Ann Mulligan of WHOI and Holly Michael and Charles Harvey of MIT have cleared up a mystery of why so much salty water emerges from aquifers into the coastal ocean. The researchers discovered a counterintuitive seasonal pumping system at work.