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Schematic of an artesian well
A roadside artesian well with a pipe for filling bottles or jugs.

See Great Artesian Basin for the water source in Australia.

An artesian aquifer is a confined aquifer containing groundwater that will flow upward through a well, called an artesian well, without the need for pumping. Water may even reach the ground surface if the natural pressure is high enough, in which case the well is called a flowing artesian well.

An aquifer is a layer of soft rock, like limestone or sandstone, that absorbs water from an inlet path. Porous stone is confined between impermeable rocks or clay. This keeps the pressure high, so when the water finds an outlet, it overcomes gravity and goes up instead of down. The recharging of aquifers happens when the water table at its recharge zone is at a higher elevation than the head of the well.

Fossil water aquifers can also be artesian if they are under sufficient pressure from the surrounding rocks. This is similar to how many newly tapped oil wells are pressurized.


Artesian wells were named after the former province of Artoismarker in Francemarker, where many artesian wells were drilled by Carthusian monks since 1126.

Artesian water

from a well that taps into an aquifier

Examples of artesian wells


United States

Some towns in the United States were named Artesia after the artesian wells in the vicinity. Other artesian well sites include:



  • Aquileia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia


  • Cella, Teruel, Arag√≥n

United Kingdom

  • Trafalgar Square fountains, London (1844 to about 1890) The wells were about 130m deep.


  • Grenelle Well in Paris (opened in 1841) which was almost 600m deep.
  • Passy Well, France (opened in 1860)

Artesian systems in popular culture

For many years, Olympia Beer (Tumwater, Washingtonmarker) was brewed with water obtained from artesian wells. The company's promotions made much of the use of artesian water in the brewing process. However, the advertisements never explained what artesian water was, preferring to claim that the water was controlled by a mythical population of "Artesians". Once the brewery was taken over by a larger company, the use of artesian water was discontinued, and so was that advertising campaign.

In downtown Olympia, current efforts to preserve the use of artesian water at the one remaining public well has been the mission of H2Olympia: Artesian Well Advocates

See also


  1. Frances Gies and Joseph Gies, Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel subtitled "Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages". Harper Perennial, 1995 ISBN 0-06-016590-1, page 112.
  2. Kelley Advertising & Marketing: Olympia Beer: A Good Campaign Accelerates the Death of a Brand . Accessed 2008.11.07.
  3. Beer Advocate: Olympia Beer. Accessed 2008.11.07.
  4. "It's Still the Water" Thurston County PUD Report - CONNECTIONS, Summer 2009, Vol. 3, No. 3 -

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