THE WATER CYCLE

Sunshine

The sun shines on water in rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and oceans and makes the water warmer. This turns the water into vapor or steam. The water vapor leaves the lake or ocean or river and goes into the air, where it becomes a cloud.

Evaporation

Evaporation is when the sun heats up water in rivers or lakes or the ocean and turns it into vapor or steam. The water vapor or steam leaves the river or lake or ocean and goes into the air, where it becomes a cloud.

Rain

When the temperature is warm, like during the spring or summer, clouds get so full of water that rain starts to fall. The rain falls onto the land and runs into streams and rivers. The water in the streams and rivers runs into lakes and finally into the ocean. Some of the rain that falls soaks into the ground and stays there until plants drink it or until it goes deep enough into the ground that it is called "groundwater" and goes to people's wells.

Snow

Snow is just like rain except it falls when the air is cold, like during late fall and winter. Snow usually stays on top of the ground until it melts, then it turns into water and runs into streams and rivers. Some of the water from melted snow also goes into the ground for plants and people to drink.
Mountains
and
Ice
Some of the snow that falls onto mountains stays there a long time because it is so cold most of the time at the top of mountains. This snow turns into ice and sometimes becomes glaciers. Snow and ice on the top of mountains can stay there sometimes for hundreds of years before it finally melts and runs into the streams and rivers.
 Rivers and Streams

 

Rivers and streams carry the water that comes from rain and melted snow into the ocean. They sometimes can carry this water a long way. The Mississippi River in the middle of the United States carries rain and melted snow from Minnesota and Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. When the weather is warm, sometimes the sun makes the rivers and streams warm, some of the water turns into steam or vapor, and it leaves the river and goes into the air where it becomes a cloud.
 Oceans

 

 Oceans are like really big lakes. Rivers and streams carry all of the water that comes from rain and melted snow into the oceans. When water gets into the oceans, it mixes and becomes salty. When the sun shines on the oceans, the water gets warmer and becomes vapor, which goes into the air and becomes a cloud. Most of the water on the earth is in the oceans.

RETURN TO DRINKING WATER PAGE     RETURN TO KIDS PAGE