What Are Natural Sources of Water?

Tanveer Chandok/CC-BY-SA 2.0

Water comes from three main natural sources: rain water, underground water and surface water. Hidden water trapped in different forms such as in polar ice caps and glaciers is another important source of water.

Precipitation Precipitation such as rainfall, snow, hail and sleet is one of the major natural water sources in the world. When collected, rainwater provides clean water for drinking, industrial use and agriculture. In addition, precipitation plays a key role in the replenishment of both surface and underground water.

For precipitation to occur, the water cycle begins from evaporation of water from plants, soil and surface water bodies. This water vapor then rises and condenses at high altitudes to form clouds. The accumulation and resultant saturation of clouds leads to formation of water droplets, which fall back to the grounds as rainfall. However, in some instances water droplets at high altitudes may encounter very low temperatures, which causes freezing and then the formation of sleet, hailstones or snow.

Underground Water Some underground rocks or aquifers hold large amounts of water reserves. This underground water, when under natural pressure, may be pushed up to the surface to form springs, which provide water to rivers and lakes. Also, underground water can be accessed through drilling of boreholes in areas with aquifers.

Underground water reserves are an important source of water in areas with limited surface water and during times of drought. Such water may be used for irrigation, industrial use and farming activities. In addition, this water may also be filtered to remove excess salts and impurities in order to make it safe for human consumption.

Moreover, in some regions, underground water may get heated by the EarthдуЅн_М”s inner core, which results in the formation of geysers and hot springs. Such phenomena attract tourists but the geyser’s steam can also be used for domestic heating and in power generation.

Surface Water Surface water such as rivers, lakes and oceans are the most abundant source of natural water supply. This water is fed from springs, the melting of mountain glaciers and precipitation. Though most of surface water is salty, freshwater lakes, rivers and streams provide clean water for domestic and industrial use. However, some surface water may contain pathogens, which is why there is a need for water treatment before making it available for human consumption.

Surface water forms an integral part of human economic activities. This water may be used for hydroelectric power generation, irrigation of farmlands, tourism activities and fishing. In addition, large water bodies provide channels for sea transport.

Hidden Water Water trapped in other forms such as in polar ice caps, glaciers and in the atmosphere are an important source of natural water. Though not readily available for use, this water source may eventually be accessed through melting of ice and condensation of atmospheric water vapor. Moreover, water trapped in different forms plays a key role in the water cycle.

Although all natural water sources are constantly replenished by weather cycles, it is important to conserve water by minimizing waste. Proper management of water sources plus environmental conservation helps to maintain the prevailing weather conditions and so limit climate change.