Abstract Groundwater quality in the Coventry aquifer system was surveyed using the 42 accessible boreholes. Pollution by chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents (CHSs) is widespread in the urban area, with trichloroethene being the major pollutant. CHS pollution is closely associated with industrial land use, except for trichloromethane which appears to be linked to leakage of chlorinated water from water mains and sewers. Modelling studies suggest that most of the urban groundwater is already polluted by dissolved CHSs, and that natural flushing of the aquifer will take hundreds of years. Inorganic pollution has also occurred in the urban area, and is linked mainly to leakage from sewers, in contrast to most CHS pollution. Little, if any, degradation of CHSs is taking place in the aquifer, and pollution continues; the poor quality of Coventry groundwater will, therefore, persist for the foreseeable future.