Does Athas have underground aquifers?

I am working on a some sub terrain dungeon material. Looking into caves and other such things, it occurs to me.

Does Athas have underground aquifers? I am not aware of anything in the canon which expressly says “no.” It is established that Athas does have functional wells and fountains. That plus oasis and mudflats would indicate to me that yes water does exist and gravity affects it as expected. So it would make logical sense for underwater aquifers.

The counter argument is that nothing in the lore that expressly says they do. Also, people can say there is too little water for even that. Certainly, there would be cave systems and the like carved out by water, that has long since disappeared. Some will argue that even this much water, in an aquifer, goes against the mood and survival elements of Dark Sun.

I see the following uses for such a thing in Dark Sun. This is just a start though.

  1. Narratively speaking, these would be able to fulfill the role of oasis under the ground. Almost anything you could do with a oasis, you could do with an aquifer. I would say, it wouldn’t make sense for a trading route, though.

  2. I see Water clerics, druids and to a lesser extent, Earth clerics going nuts over this. Some might even be willing to live entire lives underground to be near such a source.

  3. If surrounding caves are dry, this would be a monster hotspot and/or guarded by whatever intelligent creatures are nearby.

  4. Remember, it doesn’t need to be drinkable. It can be polluted, briny or something else.



Yes. There is one in Rise and Fall of a Dragon King under Urik.

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If so, I would make them uncommon and very deep underground. Part of the theme of Dark Sun is the struggle for water. If a huge pristine aquifer is discovered, it would take that away.
Salty would be the most likely cause of a fouled aquifer, or you could just make giant underground mud lakes. Without the sun to dry them out, the mud could last a long while.

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Yes, aquifers exist. One is referenced in Raiders of the Chanth, from Dungeon Magazine. It’s the source of the spring at Darktarn Oasis. Another aquifer that ‘springs’ to mind is the one in the Crescent Forest. The Ivory Triangle book (from the box set of the same name) references it on p.71-72. It’s not unreasonable to assume that many small settlements with a spring will have an aquifer to thank for their existence. Some deep wells might even be linked to aquifers.

The Crescent Forest aquifer is linked to a water spirit of the land (and the current form of that spirit is causing issues if only the druids realised it). Again, it’s not unreasonable to assume that most aquifers have an associated water spirit of the land. Druids, Water Clerics (and Rain Clerics - rains refill aquifers after all) would all be strongly motivated to protect such spirits and the aquifers.


Excellent references, Kalindren.

Real world deserts have aquifers also. This one here in the Sahara Desert is massive.



Being autistic has some compensations - an OCD encyclopedic knowledge being one. :wink:

As for the Nubian aquifer IRL, I thought I’d read about that before in the context of Libya leveraging its oil exploration presence down there. It’s amazing to think how much water is locked away in even the most inhospitable areas of the planet.


The water drake description in the 2E books also verifies the existence of underground aquifers.


I positioned one aquifer in my current game in between N. and S. Ledopolus (under the silt estuary). It’s the reason why the dwarves are building a bridge instead of a tunnel between the two towns. It was forgotten about because the water is saline and brackish, but a powerful drake resides there guarding one of the rare gates to the plane of elemental water.


You know you’re too much of a Dark Sun fan when you initially misread ‘positioned’ as 'poisoned :wink:


Pretty sure I thought about poisoning the water source during development… but there’s ways around that and pretty sure most dwarves wouldn’t care given their constitution and poison saves. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’ve been imagining an inner sea, so deep beneath the ground that it would be impractical to try and bring water to the surface or else so filled with dissolved salts and other minerals to make it undrinkable.


Thanks, good example. I will admit, not being a fan of that book. Softened Hamanu WAY too much for my tastes.

Blockquote Rise and Fall of a Dragon. I never liked that book. It was pretty soft and mushy. I felt like screaming at the author “You do remember this guy committed genocide, and helped wreck his entire planet, right?!?” Just found it frustrating. The whole redeemed matyr angle did not fit.


Bitter well is also an example of underground aquifer, albeit of limited amount.

Even if huge amounts of water exist underground in Athas, like in the Sahara desert (linked to past ages when the Sahara region was covered with forests, like Athas in the Green Age), it does not mean they are easy to reach (they may be far underground and distant from each other). Most known oasis and wells could be the only “manageable” accesses.

If rain is scarce, underground aquifers are the only mean to support wells and oasis in water.


Without metal tools, reaching aquifers would require massive amounts of magic or possibly psionics.

Makes you wonder if dig spells could be potentially world changing.

Or finding a way to open a wormhole under the water and draining it somewhere else. Makes me think how funny it’d be to do that between the Lake of Golden Dreams and over any other target.

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Only for deep aquifers. Humanity’s been digging wells to reach the watertable long before we had iron (or even bronze). HIstorically we’ve accessed aquifers as they curve up the rock strata - dig a well with stone and wood tools in the right area and you can access the aquifer water fairly easily.

I’ll admit that magic and/or psionics make deeper excavations through bedrock much easier.


I would find wizard magic questionable to use for digging for aquifers. Defiling would be anathema to the whole enterprise, and likely to have innumerable consequences. Preserver magic would be safer, but still tempting fate. Divine or primal and psionic would be far more benefit. Psionic would be exhausting, but so would physical labor.

An unexpected use of divine would be political and religious. Templars working for a sorcerer king would want to monopolize for their city, or advance some other plan (poison it for rivals). Earth, water and rain clerics would certainly be in favor. However, they would not be willing to do so if they couldn’t properly defend the new well/shrine. Why put forth that much energy, only to loose it to hostile caravans, tribes, templars, etc.

Fire would be indifferent. Yeah, you want more trees to burn, but it’s a roundabout way of doing it. Air certainly wouldn’t oppose, but not a lot of personal investment.

Silt would straight up oppose. Lava too, though if they can use it as a ploy to hit lava instead…

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Funny… or terrifying?

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If it was easily done, the kings and queens would have done it already.

They have access to said spells. With PCs starting at 3rd level? It wouldn’t take long for for such tactics to have occurred.

So what’s the real explanation to keep this from happening?

The SKs control their populations through limited access to water so opening up more access may not serve them.

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