Water Cycle

What is the water cycle?

The water cycle refers to the constant process of water circulating through the atmosphere, earth, and ocean. It concerns both meteorological and hydrological science. 

When precipitation falls onto the earth's surface, this water can filter into lakes, rivers, streams, or the ocean, and become surface water.  Alternatively, it may filter into the ground through soil, sand, and gravel, and become groundwater. 

When surface water is heated by the sun, some of it will evaporate, rising into the atmosphere, cooling and condensing into clouds. Water expelled from vegetation (through transpiration) and soil can also follow this process. 

Eventually, the condensed clouds release precipitation, continuing the water cycle. 

What are watersheds and aquifers, and how do they relate to the water cycle? 

 A watershed is an area of land that catches precipitation, somewhat like a funnel, then drains it in a specific river, stream, lake, or aquifer. All land is part of a watershed. 

Aquifers are underground bodies of porous rock and/or substrate that hold groundwater. They are maintained by rainfall and inflow from lakes and streams above ground, combined with natural and human-caused outflow (e.g. human-made wells). 

Both watersheds and aquifers play integral parts in water movement, management, and storage throughout the water cycle. Understanding how they work helps us better understand the complexities of the hydrological cycle. 

Additional Resources:

water cycle diagram

Water Cycle Diagram


Watershed Diagram