What is the Water Cycle (Hydraulic cycle)?
The water cycle is simply the complete journey that water makes in its life, from one place to the other, and from one state to the other. As the word ‘cycle’ suggests, there is no starting point. This means that we can begin at any point and follow its path until it gets to where we started again.
Stage 1: Evaporation and transpiration
The oceans and large water bodies absorb the sun’s energy (heat), warming their surfaces. As the water heats up, it evaporates (turns from liquid to vapor). In addition to that, green plants (forests and all vegetation cover) also release moisture into the air in a process called transpiration.
Stage 2: Condensation
Cooler temperatures cause the vapor to condense (vapor turning back into liquid). Winds and air masses move the moisture around a bit, forming clouds. With time, they become heavier with water.
Stage 3: Precipitation
The water now falls from the sky in the form of rain, snow, sleet and hail.
Stage 4: Runoff and Infiltration
As the water falls to the ground, they find their way on the ground surface into puddles, streams and rivers. This is by the natural force of gravity, aided by slopes and gullies on sloping surfaces. Besides runoff, water is also absorbed into the soil. This is called infiltration.