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Hydrologic Cycle Essay

773 words - 3 pages

HYDROLOGIC CYCLE The hydrologic cycle is a constant movement of water above, on, and below the earth's surface. It is a cycle that replenishes ground water supplies. It begins as water vaporizes into the atmosphere from vegetation, soil, lakes, rivers, snowfields and oceans-a process called evapotranspiration. As the water vapor rises it condenses to form clouds that return water to the land through precipitation: rain, snow, or hail. Precipitation falls on the earth and either percolates into the soil or flows across the ground. Usually it does both. When precipitation percolates into the soil it is called infiltration when it flows across the ground it is called surface run off. The amount of precipitation that infiltrates, versus the amount that flows across the surface, varies depending on factors such as the amount of water already in the soil, soil composition, vegetation cover and degree of slope. Surface runoff eventually reaches a stream or other surface water body where it is again evaporated into the atmosphere. Infiltration, however, moves under the force of gravity through the soil. If soils are dry, water is absorbed by the soil until it is thoroughly wetted. Then excess infiltration begins to move slowly downward to the water table. Once it reaches the water table, it is called ground water. Ground water continues to move downward and laterally through the subsurface. Eventually it discharges through hillside springs or seeps into streams, lakes, and the ocean where it is again evaporated to perpetuate the cycle. GROUND WATER AND SUBSURFACE WATER Most rock or soil near the earth's surface is composed of solids and voids. The voids are spaces between grains of sand, or cracks in dense rock. All water beneath the land surface occurs within such void space sand is referred to as underground or subsurface water. Subsurface water occurs in two different zones. One zone, located immediately beneath the land surface in most areas, contains both water and air in the voids. This zone is referred to as the unsaturated zone. Other names for the unsaturated zone are zone of aeration and vadose zone. The unsaturated zone is almost always underlain by a second zone in which all voids are full of water. This zone is defined as the saturated zone. Water in the saturated zone is referred to as ground water and is...

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