In either case, drawdown is the change in hydraulic head or water level relative to the initial spatial and temporal conditions of the system. Drawdown is often represented in cross-sectional diagrams of aquifers. A record of hydraulic head, or rate of flow (discharge), versus time is more generally called a hydrograph (in both groundwater and surface water). The main contributor to groundwater drawdown since the 1960s is over-exploitation of groundwater resources.
Drawdown occurs in response to:
Groundwater drawdown due to excessive water extraction can have adverse ecological impacts. Groundwater environments often have high biodiversity, however, drawdown alters the amount and types of nutrients released to surrounding organisms. In addition, nearby wetlands, fisheries, terrestrial and aquatic habitats may be altered with a reduction in the water available to these ecosystems, sometimes altering species ecophysiology.
Extracting groundwater at a rate that is faster than it can be naturally replenished is often referred to as overdrafting. Overdrafting may decrease the amount of groundwater that naturally feeds surrounding water bodies, including wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams. Additionally, when a cone of depression is formed around a pumping well due to groundwater extraction, nearby groundwater sources may flow toward the well to replenish the cone, taking water from local streams and lakes. This may result in poor water quality in these local water bodies as baseflow water contribution is reduced, which could result in perennial streams becoming more intermittent, and intermittent streams becoming more ephemeral. Finally, drawdown from groundwater extraction may lead to an increased sensitivity of the ecosystem to climate change and may be a contributing factor to sea-level rise and land subsidence.