Stuff you always wanted to know about water!
Water quality is linked to water consumption, e.g. how drinkable, and/or available, water is depends on how we are using our water. If we suck it out of the ground faster than it can be put back (which is happening all the time), then it can become full of minerals and salts, which aren’t very good for plants and soils. If we contaminate places where there is fast moving groundwater, like in underground caves, water will become quickly polluted elsewhere.
Surface Water and Groundwater
The water that we see on the surface (known as surface water), like lakes, streams and rivers, only accounts for ~1.5% of all the water in rocks and sediments underground. This groundwater can surface as a spring, supply water to surface streams and lakes (usually below the water level) and even flow as streams in underground caves.
While surface water tends to be cloudy with sediment, groundwater is relatively clear and is a good source of drinking water for communities and individual dwellings. In dry regions, groundwater may be the major or only source of water.
This is the amount of running water on the ground when there is a rainstorm, and depends on the maximum rate that soil and other surface things can soak up water. If it’s able to soak up water as fast as it falls, there is no runoff but when it is not as fast or the soil fills up, the extra water collects at the surface, and hey presto! Runoff!. Of course, if this occurs on a hill or slope, down it goes either into streams or rivers.
WATER = LIFE
Cheesy but true…
Human bodies are roughly 70% water (but not like a bottle full of water!), with every single part of our bodies using water, even down to the cells that we are made of. We’ll survive about a week with no food but only a few days without water.
In fact, most things that live on Planet Earth need some form of water to survive, and without water the Earth could look pretty boring – like the moon even!
Water in the Hydrological Cycle moves around, keeping plants and animals alive, providing places for some to live, and also wears down rocks and mountains providing fresh sediments like mud and sand for places like beaches, and keeping mountains from getting too high (the Rock Cycle). On land, most animals and plants need freshwater, including us, and out of all the water in the world, there is less than 1% is freshwater that is possibly okay to drink and use for our daily needs.
We think we see a lot of water on the surface of the Earth, like in streams, lakes and rivers but a far greater amount is under the ground, being held in and moving through small pore spaces in the sediments and rocks underneath us. This groundwater is usually slow-moving and we are doing a lot of damage to this natural system by overuse and contamination of these water sources.
We all need to know enough about how water systems work and how easily we affect them so that it won’t come as such a surprise when our limited freshwater supply starts to run out in the face of rising populations, increased land use and whatever else the future throws at us. To use a familiar saying – forewarned is forearmed.