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Can you dig through an aquifer in Dwarf Fortress?

Learn how to deal with those pesky aquifers!

In Dwarf Fortress, there’s nothing more annoying than an aquifer. In the real world, aquifers are fairly benign rock formations or sediment that hold groundwater. But in Dwarf Fortress, aquifers are world-spanning menaces that prevent fortresses from being built. So even the most experienced Dwarf Fortress players will skip embarking on an aquifer, while newbies shouldn’t even try. Still, you can do it, and here’s everything to know about digging through aquifers in Dwarf Fortress.

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Can you dig through an aquifer?

The short answer is yes, you can, but it’s not easy. There are a few ways to mine through aquifers in Dwarf Fortress, but none are easy. Here we’ve listed some of the below:

The cave-in method

Essentially, you’ll want to punch through the aquifer by using a cave-in. You’ll need several layers of dirt, soil, clay, loam, etc., above the aquifer, and the idea is essentially to collapse the layers of dirt into the aquifer, replacing the aquifer tiles with the dry dirt.

To do this, first Dig stairs down to the aquifer, and create at least a 5x5 wide area. Dig out the entire area under the “plug” you’ve created. Next, build a single floor to connect this plug to the surface. And finally, remove this final floor either with a lever or a deconstruction order. This will cause a cave-in, puncturing the tile.

Related: When does Dwarf Fortress Adventure Mode release for Steam and

The freezing method

Aquifers are water, and water freezes! In cold biomes, you can essentially wait for the aquifer to freeze, dig through it, and replace the ice walls with stone or wood before it thaws in the summer. This is a risky method because there’s the potential for dwarves to not carry out the work quickly enough and be swept away or drown in the aquifer, or the fortress be flooded. But it’s a very consistent way to solve the problem of acquirers and works well even on heavy aquifers!


The pump system is the safest, most reliable (and least fun) method of digging through aquifers. You can build screw pumps and pump the water from the aquifer into a higher-up reservoir. This is quite technical and time-consuming, but it will get you through the aquifer.

Note that all these methods require setting up on the surface, to begin with. Even when embarking on an aquifer, it’s best to make sure you’re setting up defenses and getting ready ahead of punching through the aquifer.

For more Dwarf Fortress guides, info, and news, check out Best Mods for Dwarf Fortress on Pro Game Guides.

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Image of Michael Hassall
Michael Hassall
Michael lives in the UK, but wishes he lived in Eorzea. A life-long gamer, Four years ago, he ditched a "real" job to write about video games for a living, and hasn't looked back. When not guiding players how to get the latest mounts, crafting recipes, and in-game goodies, he spends his time nurturing an unhealthy addiction to MMOs and gacha games.

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Can you dig through an aquifer in Dwarf Fortress?

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