Water is one of the most important compounds on our planet. The human body is about 60 percent water, and over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in precious H2O. However, when it comes to water in our cities or even our backyards, there’s usually an alarming amount we don’t understand.

Important water terms to know

Water comes in many forms and purities, each with its own important role to play in the hydrologic cycle. Do you know all of these terms?

  • Water table: The water table is the boundary surface of groundwater that sits above rocks and soil saturated with water. The water table fluctuates over time because it is affected by the amount of precipitation and aquifer use below it.
  • Aquifer: An aquifer is a layer present in the soil that is capable of transporting a large volume of groundwater. These pockets of water sit below the water table amidst rocks and soil.
  • Groundwater: Groundwater is water found underground in the saturated zone of soil or in a zone consisting entirely of water. Groundwater shifts from places of high elevation to places of low elevation and pressure
  • Freshwater: Freshwater contains little to no (less than 1 milligram per liter) dissolved solids or salts. This water is replenished through precipitation and runs in streams and rivers.
  • Heavy water: Heavy water is a special type of water used for nuclear power. Its hydrogen atoms have been replaced by deuterium, which is an isotope of hydrogen that makes the water heavier.
  • Brackish water: Brackish water falls outside the category of both salt water and freshwater. It is usually found in estuaries, where tidal action from oceans and river flows mix, and contains some salt, but not as much as seawater does.
  • Floodplain: A floodplain is a flat area of land along a river or stream that gets flooded with water when water levels get too high.
  • Wetland: A wetland is an area of land that is saturated with water –either surface water or groundwater –and holds vegetation that thrives in wet conditions.
  • Spring: A spring is a place where the water table exceeds the ground’s surface, so groundwater seeps out of the earth.

The importance of protecting our water sources

Recently, scientists and industrial industry experts have been claiming that water is the new oil. Water scarcity is becoming a major problem, with demand rising for clean water not only to use in industrial applications, but even just to drink.

Water scarcity has caused problems like droughts, particularly in areas like California, where groundwater shortages and overuse have actually led to the sinking of land, also known as subsidence. Subsidence can lead to sinkholes that swallow up trees or cars and severely damage surrounding infrastructure.

In Canada, historical alterations to water streams and floodplains have resulted in minimized interactions between water and soil. This means we have access to less clean water and may experience future water shortages. Protecting our wetlands and floodplains and emphasizing water conservation efforts can help ensure our future access to clean, healthy drinking water, as well as hydrated soil and a well-regulated water cycle across the nation and around the world. Please contact Soil Advocates for further information at: admin@soiladvocates.ca

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