Artificial Groundwater Recharge

Science Center Objects

Groundwater levels are declining across the country as our withdrawals exceed the rate of aquifers to naturally replenish themselves, called recharge. One method of controlling declining water levels is by using artificial groundwater recharge. The USGS monitors wells to evaluate the effect of groundwater depletion and recharge, and provides vital information to those who depend on groundwater resources.


Artificial recharge is the practice of increasing the amount of water that enters an aquifer through human-controlled means. For example, groundwater can be artificially recharged by redirecting water across the land surface through canals, infiltration basins, or ponds; adding irrigation furrows or sprinkler systems; or simply injecting water directly into the subsurface through injection wells.


Diagram showing natural and artificial recharge of groundwater.

Natural groundwater recharge occurs as precipitation falls on the land surface, infiltrates into soils, and moves through pore spaces down to the water table. Natural recharge also can occur as surface-water leakage from rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. 

Artificial recharge can be done through injection of water through wells. This method often is applied to recharge deep aquifers where application of water to the land surface are not effective at recharging these aquifers.


Aquifer storage and recovery is a water-storage technique applied by water-resource managers and scientists worldwide. Essentially, it involves storage of available water through wells completed into aquifers, with subsequent retrieval from these same wells during dry periods. Recovery of water stored in these wells greatly benefits environmental, agricultural, and urban uses.



The USGS has played an active role in artificial recharge studies dating back to 19051. Based on the number of current studies, USGS investigations of aquifer storage and recovery are just as essential today as they were 100 years ago.