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Artesian Water

Ground Water Hydrology

  1. David P. Commander

Published Online: 15 APR 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.gw56

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Commander, D. P. 2005. Artesian Water. Water Encyclopedia. 5:29–30.

Author Information

  1. Water and Rivers Commission, Perth, Australia

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2005


Artesian water is groundwater that flows freely at the surface from an artesian bore or well. The name artesian comes from the flowing wells constructed in the twelfth century at the Carthusian monastery near Lilliers in the northeastern French province of Artois.

The artesian condition is, however, an accident of topography, not necessarily a property of the water, the bore, or the aquifer. For this reason, it is preferable now to use the term ‘confined’ to refer to the aquifer. ‘Confined’ implies the presence of a low permeability confining bed above the confined aquifer, which allows a positive (above ground) hydraulic head to be maintained. Rarely, flowing water can be obtained from an unconfined aquifer without a confining bed, provided there is a sufficient upward head gradient.

Artesian water is common in sedimentary basins, where there are extensive aquifers overlain by confining beds. The classic artesian basin is shaped like a saucer; the aquifer crops out around the elevated margins of the basin, where it can be recharged by rainfall or stream flow. The cities of London and Paris lie at the centers of their basins and were among the first cities to exploit artesian water on a large scale. The Great Artesian Basin in eastern Australia is one of the largest examples; it is 1500 km across. However, artesian conditions can occur in other geological formations.


  • artesian;
  • artesian basins;
  • artesian bores;
  • confined aquifers;
  • flowing bore;
  • groundwater;
  • subartesian