Standard Article

Safe Yield of an Aquifer

Ground Water Hydrology

  1. Eric S. Wilson

Published Online: 15 APR 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.gw1006

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Wilson, E. S. 2005. Safe Yield of an Aquifer. Water Encyclopedia. 5:575–576.

Author Information

  1. E. L. Montgomery & Associates, Inc., Tucson, Arizona

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2005


Safe yield is a controversial term and concept that may be defined for common usage as the amount of water an aquifer system can yield over a long period without producing unacceptable effects. Unacceptable effects may include an excessive decline in groundwater level, sometimes described as groundwater mining; reduction or elimination of riparian vegetation; reduction or elimination of water in streams, lakes, springs, and wetlands; aquifer compaction and land subsidence; reduction in groundwater underflow to downgradient aquifer systems; a change in groundwater temperature; an undesirable change in the chemical quality of groundwater; and salt water intrusion into aquifer systems adjacent to oceans or saline lakes.

The definition of safe yield has evolved for nearly a century; initially, it was defined by Lee (1) as “… the limit and quantity of water which can be withdrawn regularly and permanently without dangerous depletion of the storage reserve.” The definition was modified and expanded by Meinzer (2), Conkling (3), and Todd (4). Due to ambiguity and lack of agreement on the definition, many authors have suggested abandoning the term (5–7) for an alternate term such as “sustainable yield.”


  • safe yield;
  • groundwater;
  • well;
  • aquifer;
  • recharge