Aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) is an energy efficient technique to provide heating and cooling to buildings by storage of warm and cold water in aquifers. In regions with large demand for ATES, ATES adoption has lead to congestion problems in aquifers. The recovery of thermal energy stored in aquifers can be increased by reducing the distance between wells of the same temperature while safeguarding individual system performance. Although this approach is implemented in practice, the understanding of how this affects both the recovery efficiency and the needed pumping energy is lacking. In this research, the effect of well placement on the performance of individual systems is quantified, and guidelines for planning and design are developed. Results show an increase in thermal recovery efficiency of individual systems when the thermal zones of wells of the same temperature are combined, which is explained by reduced surface area of the thermal zone over which losses occur. The highest increase of the thermal recovery efficiency is found for systems with a small storage volume and long well screens. The relative increase of the thermal recovery efficiency is 12% for average-sized systems with a storage volume of 250,000 m3/year, and 25% for small systems (50,000 m3/year). The optimal distance between wells of the same temperature is 0.5 times the thermal radius, following the trade-off between an increase of the thermal recovery efficiency and the increase in pumping energy. The distance between wells of opposite temperature must be larger than three times the thermal radius to avoid negative interaction.