Water Life Cycle


Just like anything else in our garden, water has a life cycle. The science of hydrology studies water and its behavior, providing information for the home gardener as well as large-scale agriculture.

The Atmosphere and Aquifers

All of the water present on the planet moves between its atmosphere and aquifers. The atmosphere keeps water from dissipating into space and aquifers clean and return it to the surface for sublimation, the process that returns it to the atmosphere.


Water forms precipitation when vapor hits cold air high in the atmosphere. Vapor must rise to higher altitudes to "desublimate" in warm summer months, more than in cold winter months.

Infiltration and Storage

Water falls upon the earth and infiltrates the earth where it is stored in ice and snow packs and surface bodies like lakes. Much of it filters through the aquifer to become groundwater.

Surface and Groundwater Discharge

Surface water runs off into streams and river systems, eventually descending into the oceans. Groundwater nourishes plant life, rises in springs and discharges into the ocean.


Water "sublimates" or returns to the atmosphere by evaporation from bodies of water and "evapotranspiration" from land. As the water vapor rises, it cools and condenses to form clouds where it is stored and circulated by prevailing winds until cold air causes it to form precipitation.


  • University of North Dakota: Hydrologic Cycle

Who Can Help

  • U.S. Geologic Survey: The Water Cycle
  • Great Lakes Directory: Consider Its Lifecycle: Bottled Water
Keywords: water cycle, life cycle, hydrology, garden

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.