Empowering you to understand your world

A Guide To The Water Cycle

Simplified water cycle illustration. Image Credit: Kompulsa – GE.

Water is one of those precious commodities that everyone uses to brush their teeth, wash their faces, shower, soak, clean, cook, drink, and flush their toilets. It is also very scarce in certain areas, resulting in the inability to perform the essential tasks listed above, as well as illness and death due to dehydration. This is sometimes caused by drought.

Table of Contents

  1. What percentage of water is fresh?
  2. Water Cycle
  3. Water Conservation
  4. Water Storage and Distribution

In this article, I will discuss ways in which water can be conserved, so that you, as well as everyone else, will have more money and water to spare. I myself was without a supply for several months, but for years I had to cope with water shortages. This is why I learnt about these tips.

Water Proportion and Amount/What Percentage of Water is Fresh?

Amount of water on earth: About 333 million cubic miles. [Source].

Amount of surface water on earth (such as rivers): 300 cubic miles.

96.5% of the water on the earth is salt water. The remaining 3.5% is contained in ice, glaciers, rivers, ponds, lakes, underground rivers, and elsewhere above ground such as dams and any form of storage containers (provided that it came from a freshwater source of course and is still fresh). too.

68% of freshwater is in glaciers and ice, while another 30% of freshwater is underground. So that means that 2% of freshwater is in liquid form and on land. That may not sound like much, but it is actually very significant. 98% of freshwater is underground and in ice/glaciers.


Water Cycle/Hydrologic Cycle Basics

Simplified Primer:

Step 1: Heat causes water to expand. As it expands (the particles are spaced out more), it rises and then eventually turns into a gas known as water vapour. It rises because it becomes less dense. The heat mentioned above can come from the sun or another source.

Step 2: This vapour then cools high up in the troposphere, liquefies, and then freezes into ice crystals.

Step 3: The ice crystals fall a long distance and melt. Then they reach the ground as what is called rain.

So basically, water evaporates, condenses, and then falls back to earth to go through that same cycle again. This recycling process cleans it and redistributes it so that everyone everything can survive.

Simplified water cycle illustration. Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Water is distributed throughout the earth, above and below the surface, consumed, and recycled. This is called the water cycle. It is consumed and eventually released by plants and animals via drinking water, eating food which contains water, excreting, urinating, sweating, and everything else that contains water. After animals release water in various forms, plants consume it and use it to grow and produce vegetation which is then consumed by animals.

Transpiration: Plants also release it via transpiration, which is the process of releasing water in gas form (water vapour) from their stomata.

To clarify where water goes (-> means into):

  • Rain -> Soil -> Plants -> Fruits and Vegetables -> Animals.
  • Fruits and Vegetables -> Animals and Humans.
  • Animals and Humans -> Sweating, urination, excretion, etc -> Soil. Exhalation contributes to water vapour directly.

Soil -> -Plants -> Transpiration, Fruits and Vegetables -> Animals and Humans  -> Evaporation -> Clouds   -> Rain -> Rivers, soil, ocean, and other open water bodies.

Recycling and Rain/Precipitation:

After water evaporates from the soil and water bodies such as rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, the ocean, any container of water (such as reservoirs and hydroelectric dams), it rises up into and cools in a cold area high in the troposphere and condenses (meaning that it turns into a liquid) and freezes, forming ice crystals.

The ice crystals and droplets in clouds melt and then fall as rain. That rain then replenishes the water content of soil, the water bodies mentioned in the beginning, as well as plants. Clouds move to a different area and then rain. Water vapour is also blown to different areas and then condenses. So what is falling is not necessary from your area, so the water cycle diagram isn’t 100% realistic.

More details

Conservation Methods

  • Turn off the faucet while you are soaping your utensils and dishes, and then turn it on and rinse them afterwards. Also turn it off while you are brushing your teeth, and then turn it back on to rinse.
  • Purchase a water saving toilet/faucets (only those that flush thoroughly, test them first if you can). I would highly recommend replacing your faucets with the hosed spray type that not only offers an improved flow rate, but saves plenty of water simply because they cannot be left on. This is because you have to squeeze them to turn them on. Use these for showering too.
  • Do not use hand sanitizers to save water, as a matter of fact, don’t rely on them unless you don’t have access to soap, as they don’t kill all germs (including MRSA and other Staph bacteria) and it is not safe to rely on them. They are alcohol based. Wash your hands with soap. Also keep in mind that hand sanitizers are ineffective if your hands are dirty. It is also unhealthy to leave chemicals on your hands, especially if you are going to prepare food.
  • Don’t bother turning down the faucet, you may end up taking long to perform tasks such as dishwashing and waste even more. A higher pressure stream is better for dishwashing because it hits dirt and grime with greater force.
  • Jiggle your toilet handle and ensure that the water isn’t running out.
  • Check for pipe leaks.
  • Ensure that you set the load size setting on your washing machine correctly. Don’t set it to large or medium if you have a small load because it will use more water than necessary.
  • Check to see if your meter is moving after you turn off all faucets. It should only move if you have a faucet or shower on.
  • It is important that water pressure is high, this makes it possible to save water when washing and performing some other tasks. Check out the prices of outlet pumps for water tanks. Do not set up pumps which draw water from the mains grid.

Water Storage and Distribution

Whenever there is a water supply shortage, people usually try to catch whatever they can, store it, and use it sparingly. There are various water storage and redistribution options, some of which are more suited to you than others. I will list some of them below:

Water Tank: This is a very large container which is designed to automatically fill when there is a water supply, and then stop filling once it is full using a valve similar to the one in your toilet tank which is closed when a buoyant ball attached to a rod reaches a certain level, and then the rod is attached to the valve itself, and closes the valve.

These tanks are usually attached to a pipeline with a check valve to prevent water from flowing back out of the tank, and into the pipe again, and even into the mains water supply network. A tank may or may not be equipped with an outlet pump which pumps water from the tank and into the pipes to improve water pressure, this is not necessary, but, is convenient and would be necessary in cases where water pressure has to be extremely high. A power washer is an option for such cases, though.

Barrels, Drums, and buckets: I would recommend keeping large barrels or drums of various sizes handy.

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