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Surface Runoff Definition

Surface runoff is water from rain or snow that flows over land before ending up in a body of water.. For example, it can get contaminated by pollution.

View Lesson on Water Cycle (6-8 Version)
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Water Cycle (6-8 Version)

Fun Facts

  • Earth's water is continually being moved on the surface of Earth as part of the water cycle.
  • Water flows downhill on land due to the force of gravity.
  • Surface runoff can lead into larger water bodies, like lakes and oceans.

Why Do We Need To Know About Surface Runoff

Learning about surface runoff helps us know how water moves in nature and why it’s important to manage it well. When it rains, some water sinks into the ground, but a lot runs off the surface. This is really important for farming and city planning, where controlling water is key.

This knowledge is important for people who work with water, like those making sure our drinking water is clean, and for those trying to protect the environment. Knowing about surface runoff helps deal with problems like soil washing away, land getting ruined, and making sure there is enough groundwater for us to drink and for farms to use.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does heat from the Sun turn liquid water into a gas called water vapor?
The energy from the Sun increases the energy of the water molecules when they are heated. This causes the water molecules to vibrate or move faster until some of them escape to become water vapor.
Explain how energy from the Sun drives the water cycle.
The Sun’s energy evaporates water into the atmosphere from all types of sources, including bodies of water, plants, and animals. This water eventually falls back to Earth and moves along Earth’s surface until it is evaporated again by the Sun. The energy from the Sun is a driving force that gets the water cycling in and out of the atmosphere.
How do plants contribute to the water cycle?
Water travels from the soil, through the plant, and then evaporates from the leaves into the atmosphere.
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