BGS GISGroundwater

Groundwater diagram

BGS GIS Groundwater diagram

BGS GISGroundwater is an add-in to ArcGIS that models the depth to groundwater beneath the land surface. For unconfined aquifers — that is, permeable water bearing rocks that are open to the atmosphere — it calculates the elevation of the groundwater table. For aquifers that are confined by overlying impermeable rock, it calculates the elevation of the surface, i.e. the level groundwater will rise to in a borehole.

The tool is based on a mathematical model that simulates groundwater flow but is easy to use. The user provides information about a region using a series of GIS raster layers and shapefiles, which form input to the model. For example, amongst other things, the user defines properties of an aquifer such as how permeable the rock is, where rivers and pumping wells are located, and the amount of rainfall seeping downwards to the water table from the land surface. On running the model, the tool adds a raster layer to the GIS project, which plots the elevation of the groundwater level surface.


Wang, L, Jackson, C R, Pachocka, M, Kingdon, A. 2016. A seamlessly coupled GIS and distributed groundwater flow model. Environmental modelling & software 82, 1–6. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2016.04.007.

Wang, L, Butcher, A S, Stuart, M E, Gooddy, D C, Bloomfield, J P. 2013. The nitrate time bomb: a numerical way to investigate nitrate storage and lag time in the unsaturated zone. Environmental Geochemistry and Health 35 (5), 667-681. DOI: 10.1007/s10653-013-9550-y.


Over 550 worldwide users/organisations have downloaded the model until 26/03/2018.

Please enter your details to download the BGS GISGroundwater files.

Terms of use

These data are delivered under the Open Government Licence, subject to the following acknowledgement accompanying the reproduced BGS materials: "Contains British Geological Survey materials © NERC [year]".


If you require further information, wish to report a problem with the software, or have suggestions about how to improve it, please contact the BGS GISGroundwater development team by e-mailing