About Our WaterThe Water Cycle
Understanding the Water Cycle
Water is something we often take for granted. From the lakes and streams we play and fish in, to the water we use every day to clean and nourish our bodies, water plays an important part in our lives. It’s a natural resource that we simply can’t live without. That’s why it’s our responsibility to protect our water resources. In order to do that, we need to better understand the water cycle and how it works.
The Water Cycle is the continuous circulation of water between the earth and the atmosphere. It has no starting or ending point. As water moves through this cycle, it changes forms. Water is the only substance that naturally exists in three states on Earth – solid, liquid, and gas.
The following are the processes involved in the water cycle. This is continuous with no end or beginning.
The colder air in the atmosphere causes the water vapor (gas) to condense into clouds where it becomes liquid. Once the drops get large enough, they fall back to the Earth as precipitation.
The sun’s energy causes water on the surface of the ocean, rivers, and lakes to evaporate into the atmosphere where it becomes water vapor, a gas. Plants also transport water through their leaves via transpiration, releasing water vapor to the atmosphere.
Precipitation is the water from the atmosphere that falls to the Earth as rain, snow, hail or sleet, or forms as dew or frost. Precipitation can be stored long-term in the solid form as ice (ice caps and glaciers), runoff the land directly to a river, lake or ocean, get taken up by plants, or soak into the soil recharging the groundwater.
The precipitation that is not stored as ice and does not runoff the land directly back to a surface water, soaks into the ground where it can be stored as groundwater. This groundwater can be transported back to the surface by plant transpiration, pumping from wells or through natural springs.