About the Water Cycle
Roll over the words to discover how water moves through the air, plants and the earth.
Read more below about how the water moves through the air, plants and the earth.
Water vapor is invisible. It rises into the air. When it gets high enough, it cools and changes back into water droplets. We call this process condensation. Water changes into little drops by “condensing” in the air, and clouds are formed.
As more water vapor cools into the clouds, the water droplets that form the clouds become larger and larger. When the water gets too heavy, it falls to the ground as precipitation in the form of rain, hail, snow or sleet.
When the sun warms water from lakes, ponds or the ocean and turns it into water vapor. This process is called evaporation.
Plants also put water back into the air through a process we call transpiration. When the sun shines on plants, tiny drops of water are released into the air. Transpiration is how plants lose water out of their leaves.
Groundwater is under the ground and in the soil. It is the water that plants use. People sometimes drill wells to get to the groundwater. They may use groundwater for drinking water or to water their crops.
As water falls to earth in various forms of precipitation, plants intercept or catch some of the water before it reaches the ground. This is called interception.
Some of the precipitation soaks into the ground (infiltration) and becomes groundwater.
Some of the precipitation runs off the land and drains into rivers, lakes and streams as runoff.