The Water Cycle

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Every living thing on Earth needs water to survive. Fortunately, Mother Nature’s got a pretty smart way of recycling water – the water cycle.

Fun Facts about the Water Cycle for Kids

  • After a storm, some of the water in your yard soaks into the ground or it’s soaked up by trees and plants.
  • The sun turns water on the Earth into a vapor. Water comes from the ocean, lakes, rivers and streams. It also comes from plants, trees and the ground. This is called transpiration.
  • As the vapor rises, it gets cold. When it gets cold, it gathers in clouds. This is called condensation.
  • When the clouds get too heavy to hold the water any longer, they drop it back to Earth in the form of rain, sleet, snow or hail.
  • Some of the water runs into lakes, streams, rivers and oceans.
  • Some of it soaks deep into the ground, creating underground aquifers. When someone digs a well, they are tapping into an underground aquifer to find water for drinking.
  • Ground water is water that soaks into the ground. Eventually some of it travels to the ocean, picking up salt and other minerals on its way. This is why the ocean is salty.
  • Water trapped in glaciers and ice caps can be millions of years old. It is the purest water on Earth.
  • Most of the water keeps moving. Water always moves downhill. After a rainstorm, rain water moves to the lowest point in your yard, usually the gutter and the street.
  • In nature, water moves downward too. It moves from the highest mountains, running down to become a brook or creek. A brook isn’t very big. Eventually it might run into a stream. Other brooks might have run into the stream too, making it bigger.
  • Later, the stream might meet other streams and flow into a river. Rivers are very big and deep. They flow quickly over rocks and soil, carving the land out. The Colorado River made the Grand Canyon, a deep ravine eighteen miles wide and a mile deep. Rivers move fast down hills and more slowly over flat land.
  • When a river gets too much water, like in a big rainstorm, it can flood, seeping out to the land around it. Dams are made by people to control the water in rivers so it doesn’t flood or dry up. Dams can also be used to make electricity. Reservoirs are manmade lakes sometimes controlled by a dam. Farmers use water from reservoirs to water their crops.
  • Sometimes water reaches a low point and stands still. This water becomes a lake or pond.
  • Sometimes water becomes a spring. A spring is water that soaks into the ground and flows across rock under the ground before bubbling up to the surface again.
  • Sometimes water hits a cliff and tumbles over the edge becoming a waterfall.
  • But most water runs until it meets the ocean. Oceans are the lowest places on earth.
  • When rivers run into oceans, they slow down. The rocks, minerals, and soil the river was carrying are released where the river meets the ocean (the mouth of the river). This area is called a delta.

Water Cycle Vocabulary

  1. Recycle: reuse
  2. Vapor: a gas
  3. Transpiration: the process of turning water on Earth into a vapor
  4. Sleet: cold, icy rain
  5. Pure: clean, free of pollutants

Learn More All about the Water Cycle

Check out this cool video all about the water cycle for kids:

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Bill Nye the Science Guy explains all about the water cycle and how it works.

Water Cycle Q&A

Question: If most rain comes from ocean water that’s turned to vapor, why isn’t it salty?

Answer: Good question! When water in the ocean becomes a vapor, the salt is left behind.

 

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