Have you ever given much thought to the natural water cycle? It’s a pretty amazing process if you think about it. The water cycle has no beginning or end and is a constant state of flux. Water changes its state from liquid, to vapor, to ice and then back again. These processes happen in the blink of an eye and over millions of years. Although the balance of water on Earth remains fairly constant over time, individual water molecules can come and go in a hurry.
In our most recent blog, the professionals at Indiana American Water discuss how the water cycle works and the four main steps involved in the process.
How Does the Water Cycle Work?
The water cycle is also referred to as the hydrologic cycle. The water cycle describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface. Through the process of recycling and purifying the water, the water cycle supports the Earth’s ecosystems and all life on Earth.
It’s broken down into four main steps:
- Infiltration and Runoff
The first step in the water cycle is evaporation. Evaporation occurs when the sun heats up bodies of liquid water such as lakes, streams, rivers and oceans, allowing the water to evaporate. Once the water evaporates, it’s converted from liquid water to steam or vapor and rises into the atmosphere. It can also evaporate through plants through a process called transpiration.
When the water vapor rises into the atmosphere, it cools and condenses into ice crystals or small water droplets which form clouds.
Once the water vapor or water droplets in the clouds become too heavy to stay suspended in the air any longer, precipitation falls to the ground in the form of rain, hail, sleet, and snow.
Infiltration and Runoff
Infiltration is when water seeps into the soil. The water is either used by plants or replenishes underground water sources such as aquifers. This is an important source of fresh water for springs, wells, and other water sources.
Meanwhile, runoff occurs when either the Earth’s surface is saturated and cannot absorb more water or when it falls onto hard surfaces and flows to bodies of water. Instead of infiltrating the ground, the water flows over the surface, creating surface runoff. The liquid water flows into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Benefits of the Natural Water Cycle
Without the natural processes of the water cycle, there would be no life on Earth. Some of its many benefits include:
- Freshwater supply. The water cycle maintains a continuous supply of fresh water for humans, animals and plants.
- Climate regulation. When water evaporates, it absorbs heat energy from the sun to cool the surface. When the water vapor forms clouds, they can warm Earth’s surface by absorbing heat emitted from the surface and re-radiating it back down toward the surface.
- Soil moisture. Precipitation helps replenish the soil moisture which is essential for the energy production of plants to grow and produce oxygen.
- Erosion control. The natural water cycle also helps to control erosion. Water carries soil and other sediments downstream to create new habitats for animals and aquatic life.
- Aquifer recharge. Water that infiltrates the ground replenishes underground water sources such as aquifers to provide clean water.
Indiana American Water Is Committed to Safe, Healthy Water
At Indiana American Water, the safety of your water supply is our number one priority. We comply with and exceed strict federal regulations in providing and delivering safe, quality drinking water. To view water quality reports in your area, click here.