- What is Source Water?
- How is Source Water Affected
- Why Do We Need to Protect Source Water
- Background: Source Water Protection
Our source water is untreated water taken from rivers, lakes or underground aquifers to supply private and public drinking water systems:
- Surface Water is water that lays on the earth's surface such as lakes, rivers and streams. It's drawn into a drinking water system through an intake pipe.
- Groundwater is the water beneath the earth's surface found in the cracks and spaces between the soil, sand and rock particles. It is drawn in a drinking water system through a well pump.
These two sources of water are interconnected - each affects the other.
We do not have an infinite supply of fresh water. Most of the water we use is recycled through the natural water (hydrologic) cycle which includes:
As water is heated by the sun, surface molecules become sufficiently energized to break free of the attractive force binding them together, and then evaporate and rise as invisible vapour in the atmosphere.
Water vapour is also emitted from plant leaves by a process called transpiration. Every day an actively growing plant transpires 5 to 10 times as much water as it can hold at once.
As water vapour rises, it cools and eventually condenses, usually on tiny particles of dust in the air. When it condenses it becomes a liquid again or turns directly into a solid (ice, hail or snow). These water particles then collect and form clouds.
Precipitation in the form of rain, snow and hail comes from clouds. Clouds move around the world, propelled by air currents. For instance, when they rise over mountain ranges, they cool, becoming so saturated with water that water begins to fall as rain, snow or hail, depending on the temperature of the surrounding air.
Excessive rain or snowmelt can produce overland flow to creeks and ditches. Runoff is visible flow of water in rivers, creeks and lakes as the water stored in the basin drains out.
Some of the precipitation and snow melt moves downwards, percolates or infiltrates through cracks, joints and pores in soil and rocks until it reaches the water table where it becomes groundwater.
Subterranean water is held in cracks and pore spaces. Depending on the geology, the groundwater can flow to support streams. It can also be tapped by wells. Some groundwater is very old and may have been there for thousands of years.
The water table is the level below the surface of the ground which is saturated with water.
Source: Environment Canada