April Showers Bring May Flowers, and Walleyes, Trout and Bluegills...

If you like fish, or like to fish, you better like rainy days! Just as the spring flowers need rain, so do fish. You see, fish (and humans, too) need water to survive. That water falling from the sky is one step in an important cycle. It's the water cycle. This issue of the PLAY newsletter focuses on water and the water cycle.

Remember that water can be a solid (ice or snow), liquid or gas (water vapor). Water moves through the cycle and changes forms. Here is how it works. Rain and snow are water that falls to the ground. Rain and snow are called precipitation. This falling water comes from clouds in the sky. Water in clouds comes from water that evaporates. It evaporates from a lake, or a puddle. Heat from the sun causes evaporation. Plants also give off water vapor. We call that transpiration. Water vapor rises into the sky. The vapor cools and becomes a liquid. This is called condensation.

When rain falls or snow melts on the Earth's surface, it has to go somewhere. Gravity makes some water run off the surface. This is called runoff. The water runs off into streams, lakes and rivers. Some water soaks into the ground. This is called percolation. The Earth's surface is like a sponge, too. This sponge can hold lots of water. That water is called groundwater. Groundwater comes back to the surface as springs, streams and lakes. Runoff and groundwater reaching the surface evaporate. The water rises and condenses, and the cycle begins again.

The water cycle doesn't move that quickly, though. Water on Earth is stored for thousands of years in oceans, ice caps or in groundwater. It may take thousands of years for a single water drop to make it through the cycle.

Water Cycle Words

Evaporation-When liquid water becomes a vapor.

Transpiration-When plants give off water vapor.

Condensation-When water vapor collects and cools to liquid.

Precipitation-When rain or snow falls to the ground.

Percolation-When water soaks into the ground.

Runoff-When water runs off the ground's surface.


PDF file of this article

PLAY Spring 2000


Copyright notice

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Web Privacy and Security Policies