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How does a bore work?

About this lesson

Students will gain an understanding of what groundwater is and conduct an experiment to discover how a bore pumps water to the surface.

Year level: 3, 4

Theme: Water supply

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • discuss what groundwater is
  • explain how a bore works.

Curriculum links


  • Suggest ways to plan and conduct investigations to find answers to questions ACSIS065
  • Represent and communicate ideas and findings in a variety of ways such as diagrams, physical representations and simple reports ACSIS060 ACSIS071

Humanities and social sciences (geography)

  • Earth's surface changes over time as a result of natural processes and human activity ACSSU075

Things you will need

  • Pump from the top of a liquid soap dispenser
  • 5 plastic bottle containers (cut off)
  • Piece of gauze (or muslin cloth)
  • Rubber band (to fix cloth around pump tube)
  • Water
  • Tea leaves
  • Food colouring
  • Sand
  • Cup to catch the pumped groundwater
  • How does a bore work? activity sheet 

Lesson description

Introduce the lesson to your class by watching the video What is groundwater (10:31).


  • Explain to students the terms 'bore', 'bore water' and 'aquifer'.


Explain to students that they will conduct an experiment to discover how a bore pumps groundwater to the surface. Refer to the activity sheet and have students record their results as they carry out the activity.

  • Fill the plastic bottles two-thirds of the way with sand.

  • Pour water into each bottle at varying levels (include a level above the sand, i.e. flooded like a lake).

  • Place a piece of gauze over the bottom of the pump with a rubber band. NOTE: the purpose of the gauze or muslin cloth is to screen out any sand particles so that only water (rather than sand and water) is pumped to the surface. If your gauze comes loose, you might notice your bore getting clogged up with dirt.

  • Put the pump into the groundwater and pump up the water.

  • Pile some tea leaves on top of the ground. Pour on water (representing rain) and observe the colour. This is similar to the colour of groundwater stained as a result of decayed vegetation. You could use food colouring (representing a pollutant, e.g. petrol) to show how groundwater can become polluted.

Reflect & summarise

  • What have you observed?
  • What happened to the level of the groundwater?
  • When is it easiest to pump the water? (I.e. when the water level is high or low?)

Extension activities

  • The ability of a geological formation to yield water depends on two factors: porosity and permeability. Have students research these two terms and give examples of porous and permeable materials.

Teacher background information

What is bore water?

Bore water is groundwater which accumulates in aquifers from seepage of rain and rivers through layers of soil and rock. A water bore is a way of gaining access to these groundwater sources.

What is an aquifer?

An aquifer is formed through layers of sand or fractured rock in which the pore spaces or fractures are filled with water. These formations store and transmit large volumes of groundwater, which can be accessed by using a water pump.

Much of the Perth area is covered with sandy, porous soils. Most private wells (bores) are located within this shallow aquifer system, as are some Water Corporation bores that supply the Integrated Water Supply Scheme with drinking water. Perth wetlands are often an expression of the shallow aquifer, where the water table is visible in low-lying areas.

How is groundwater pumped?

The action of a water pump draws water from the soil and into the tube/pipe of the bore, from which it is pumped to the surface. Water can move through the soil because the soil is permeable (i.e. there are interconnected spaces between the soil particles).

As water is pumped, the groundwater level lowers. This demonstrates a conservation issue. It is important that groundwater is not pumped out faster than it can be replenished by rainfall. If the groundwater was over pumped, lakes would dry up and bores in the area would go dry.


Did you know?

In the Perth region, part of the Swan Coastal Plain, the superficial aquifer averages about 50 metres in thickness.

Key vocabulary

  • Aquifer: An underground layer of rock or sand that can absorb and hold water
  • Bore: A hole or passage in the earth made by a drill
  • Groundwater: Water that is held underground in the soil or rock
  • Pollution: The addition to harmful things in the environment
  • Porosity: The amount of space in a rock or soil that is able to hold water
  • Water-table: The boundary between water-saturated ground and unsaturated ground