Dwarf Fortress – Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide

Dwarf Fortress – Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide 7 - steamlists.com
Dwarf Fortress – Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide 7 - steamlists.com

Welcome to Dwarf Fortress – Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide. This manual guide will teach you how to deal with the risks associated with water and aquifers.


There are horror stories about green beards and seasoned dwarfs digging into aquifers. This caused their entire forts to be submerged in a massive flood that rivaled Noah’s hilarious boating adventure. These stories are probably true, and aquifers can be anything from mildly annoying to a fort-ending threat. If you understand how they work and how they can be dealt with, they can be a great asset to your fort. They are a minor to moderate obstacle that can be overcome when building a grand fortress worthy to Armok!


Although I verified most of the information in this guide using good old Dwarven Science ™, there may still be inaccuracies because some information comes from the Dwarf Fortress Wiki covering the previous version. Please let me know if you find any errors so I can rectify them!


Liquid Depth

A tile of water (or other liquids) may have a depth of 1 to 7. A tile of water (or other liquids) can have a depth of 1 to 7. Level 7 indicates that the tile is filled with water. To see the depth of liquids in the game, go to Settings-> Game. Enable Show numeric liquid levels. Normally, liquids in Dwarf Fortress are indicated by x/7.

Dwarves can walk through 3/7 inches of water, but they will not go through 4/7 or more. They will cancel orders within 2/7 or deeper waters.

Freezing and Thawing Water

Dwarf Fortress - Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide - ☼ About Water ☼ - 6F80E8AWater above the ground and outside will freeze if it gets cold. Both underground and indoor water tend to remain liquid but can freeze if the temperature drops too far. A tile is considered indoors, including stairs, if there is any tile above it.

1/7 of the water will become an innocuous ice floor, while 2/7 and deeper will turn into a dangerous ice wall. All creatures encased in ice blocks will die instantly as freezing and thawing occur simultaneously.

If it is cold enough, water that leaks from an aquifer can instantly turn to ice if it is not already.

Evaporating water

If the water isn’t placed on top of another 7/7 tile, 1/7 of it will evaporate. It will take longer or less, depending on the temperature. In extremely hot climates, water that is deeper than outside will evaporate just as fast.

About Aquifers

An aquifer refers to a layer of rock or soil that carries groundwater. They are composed of “damp” tiles, which leak water onto tiles not part of a solid wall. The type of aquifer will determine the amount of water it produces. Light aquifers will release water slowly, while heavy aquifers can produce large quantities. These are very rare, however.

Dwarf Fortress - Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide - ☼ About Aquifers ☼ - 87F1FA8

Depending on where you are embarking, there might be only one aquifer or none at all. You can also have a mixture of light and heavy aquifers. To see the type of aquifer, hover over a tile using the mouse on your embark screen.

CAREFUL: Only information about the tile you are pointing at will be displayed in the info panel on the embark screen. To avoid any moist surprises, ensure you hover over all tiles at your chosen embark location.

Aquifers can be found one to several levels below surface level and can be one- or multiple levels deep. Aquifers can produce salt water if you are close to the ocean.

They don’t overflow; instead, they absorb excess water that flows into their pores. They are both an infinite water source and a drain of water.

Probing Aquifers

To deal with an aquifer, you must first identify its type and depth. A simple staircase can access it. Your dwarves will alert you if they reach the damp ground.

Dwarf Fortress - Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide - ☼ Aquifer Probing ☼ - F3D4AF2

To make your dwarfs dig into the damp tile, you must designate it a second time.

CAREFUL: Design a damp tile into a stairwell by starting the designation one level higher than the tile to be excavated! Your dwarves may dig a new downward stairway beneath the existing downward stairway to make it impossible for you!

After you have inserted one tile into the aquifer, watch how quickly it fills up with water. If it fills up in a matter of seconds, it is a heavy aquifer. This can be dangerous and troublesome. It is a 22A08552454A if it takes longer for water to escape and it fills up very slowly.

If you’re quick enough, you can pause your game after the aquifer tile has been dug out before it fills with water. Check the damp mark on the tile you have just dug out. If it is, it means at least two levels to your aquifer. Otherwise, it is only one. The tile below the tile will be considered damp if it has been filled with water.

Breaching Aquifers

There are many ways to dig through an underground aquifer, making it accessible. However, not all methods will work for every aquifer.

Other ways can be used, but I haven’t included (yet.) is already on the list. Other methods might be added in the future.

Moving around

It can be used for light and heavy aquifers at any depth.

For all aquifers, the easiest solution is to dig a staircase in a different area where there is no aquifer. This is only possible if the embark location does not have any aquifers.

If your area is very hilly, you might be able to access the ground below the well.

Smoothing and building walls

This method is only applicable to light aquifers at any depth. This is the best method to light aquifers because it is quick, safe, and easy.

Smoothen the four walls adjacent to the aquifer by digging one level. This will prevent them from leaking water. Dig them out if they aren’t made of stone and build walls around them. Once the current level has dried out and is no longer leaking water, you can dig another level. This will continue until the entire aquifer is gone.

Use of freezing water

This works for light and heavy aquifers at any depth. Only if the embark is sufficiently cold to allow water to freeze.

Dwarf Fortress - Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide - ☼ Breaching Aquifers ☼ - BC39B3DChannel is a 5×5 area that runs from the surface to the aquifer. The center tile is a staircase. One level at a time. The aquifer can leak water which will instantly turn into ice walls. It will not be able to withstand liquid if there are any tiles above the water. To seal the aquifer, create a 3×3 ring around the central staircase. It is unnecessary to wait for the outer 5×5 ring to become solid ice, but it is safer for your dwarves. You don’t want to risk any of your dwarves being trapped in ice.

You can save time and channel out a 3×3 area to keep water frozen throughout the year. The 5×5 method is recommended if you are concerned about fire or lava thawing the wall and causing a crack.

Utilizing pumps

Dwarf Fortress - Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide - ☼ Breaching Aquifers ☼ - C681E9CWorks with light and heavy aquifers, which are only one level deep.

Two tiles from the aquifer should be removed with two tiles spaced between them. Dig out the two tiles between the dug-out aquifer tiles from one level above the aquifer. In this location, construct a screw pump that pumps water from the stairwell to one aquifer tile. The pump will be operated by a dwarf, which will pump the water out faster than the aquifer can fill the hole. This will allow your other dwarves to smoothen or build walls that block the aquifer. The aquifer absorbs excess water so water from one hole will flow into the other hole.

Utilizing cave-ins

It works for light and heavy aquifers at any depth but is not suitable for deeper than 1-level aquifers.

This is essentially a way to carve a plug and then drop it into an aquifer. You can also use stairs to reach the aquifer. To allow your dwarves to return to their original position, channel a 5×5 ring to the aquifer. One tile should be left at the surface connecting to the outside.

Dwarf Fortress - Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide - ☼ Breaching Aquifers ☼ - 08AA493

This side-view illustration is from the DF wiki and illustrates the process quite well.

One level above the aquifer, dig out the area and channel one degree down into it. Now, remove any tile that is holding the plug up. This will allow the plug to fall into the aquifer. You can safely dig a staircase through the aquifer by removing a large chunk of dry land.

To drop multiple plugs, you will need to create concentric rings larger for multiple aquifer levels.


As you can see, aquifers are not difficult or scary to manage. Players have used them to make all kinds of amazing devices and magnificent constructions.

Here are some fun things you can do when you have aquifers.




Draining natural rivers or lakes

Artificial rivers and lakes

Artificial waterfalls


Drowning invaders, naughty dwarfs

To get free stuff, drown a trade caravan

Flooding your vault will prevent outsiders stealing your valuables

A huge water tank is built and biblical floods are periodically created.

Noble quarters that you can flood at your will in case you don’t want your king anymore

A doomsday device which will drown your entire fort if activated

Now go build the mightiest tavern/fort/whathaveyou that will make Armok laugh with glee!

Rock and stone

Strike the earth!


Written by Dr. Jaska

This is all about Dwarf Fortress – Aquifer Full Gameplay Guide; I hope you enjoy reading the Guide! If you feel like we should add more information or we forget/mistake, please let us know via commenting below, and thanks! See you soon!

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