This article reviews and discusses environmental aspects related to vertical upward and downward groundwater flow. Flow systems are an important tool to understand groundwater functioning as related to the environment, in terms of obtaining indicators of human impact and solving specific questions about a groundwater-environment system that has been influenced by anthropogenic means. This involves two broad processes. First, groundwater changes due to activities of man in the surrounding environment as a result of: (1) alteration of recharge by modification of native vegetation and original soil cover; (2) reduction of groundwater discharge to coastal areas and to inland water bodies producing desiccation of wetlands, lakes and springs; (3) groundwater contamination from sewage looses and uncontrolled waste disposal locations, and (4) up-welling of undesirable water quality induced by extraction. Second, environmental alterations due to changes in the groundwater regime produce: (1) increase in soil erosion through the disappearance of vegetation due to water-table decline, (2) water-table rise due to unplanned artificial recharge resulting from water imports to a catchment, (3) decline in water levels for improper extraction regime, (4) soil subsidence due to extraction mismanagement, and (5) disappearance of phreatofites caused by excessive extraction. Unless further understanding between groundwater and the other components of the environment is sought, the relationship between people and its environment will be subject to some of these effects, potentially endangering adequate human development and sustainable water management.
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