Water is used by industry in many ways; for cleaning, heating, and cooling and generating steam, as a solvent and for transporting dissolved substances, and as a constituent part of the industrial product itself. Withdrawal for industry usage is usually much greater than the amount consumed. The negative impacts from the industries on the quality of the subsurface environment is of highest concern since the balance between the volume of water withdrawn, and the much smaller volume actually consumed becomes wastewater or effluent to be disposed of.

Protecting groundwater may present great practical difficulties in towns and cities in developing countries where small-scale industries are widely dispersed throughout entire districts, suburbs or peri-urban areas and completely intermingled with poorer communities depending on shallow aquifers for private or community water supplies.